Program Showcase

Strengthening Career Skills for Students and Professionals:

The Center for Law and Society

MAKING SURE STUDENTS know and understand current news and issues within their field of study is a priority for educators. At Community College of Philadelphia, this principle brought faculty together and led to the creation of the Center for Law and Society.

Launched in 2005, the Center goes far beyond enhancing students’ knowledge. Its mission includes creating a rich learning environment for student achievement and research, sustaining faculty development and enrichment, encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration, stimulating innovative course and programmatic development, providing resources to professionals and other academic institutions and promoting strong connections to the community. The Center fulfills this mission by developing innovative and timely activities in addition to coordinating and planning several initiatives that occur every year.

Many events that the Center hosts were already happening at the College before the establishment of the Center, but organizing these events around a clear set of goals proved to enhance and expand resources and educational opportunities. Law and Society Week, an annual event, seeks to highlight the connections between law and other disciplines and issues. Presenters have included judges, police officers, journalists, poets, anthropologists, lawyers and other experts. Attendees get the chance to learn about specific aspects of the legal field firsthand, get a glimpse of guest speakers’ daily lives and to learn about the connections between the law and other fields and issues.

“The ninth year of Law and Society Week, held Feb. 22 through Feb. 29, had the highest attendance yet, approximately 3,500 for the week, at 38 events. We were especially proud of the diversity of the events this year, which included topics from music and crime to CSI and women in the law,” said Kathy Smith, director of the Center for Law and Society. “The organizing committee was extremely pleased with the outcome, and we are looking forward to our 10th anniversary next year.”

This year’s Law and Society Week presentations included The Snitching Project, a student- driven research initiative aimed at developing a better understanding of the snitching phenomenon. Students in the project organized focus groups around the city to learn why people are hesitant to cooperate with police to solve crimes. Research team members summarized results of the survey and discussed possible reasons for snitching attitudes.

Kathy Smith
Kathy Smith, director, Center for Law and Society

Bringing professionals into the classroom is a priority for the Center. Both the Paralegal and Justice programs invite various legal professionals to classes each semester. In addition, Paralegal students can gain valuable insight into the field through the Paralegal Mentor program. Once paired with a mentor, students have the opportunity to ask questions and receive advice about the profession.

In acknowledgement of its successful initiatives and numerous educational resources, The Center for Law and Society was a finalist for a 2007 Bellwether Award, which recognizes outstanding and innovative programs and practices that are successfully leading community colleges into the future. The award is presented by the Community College Futures Assembly and sponsored by the University of Florida Institution of Higher Education.

The Community College of Philadelphia Foundation provides financial support to the Center for Law and Society through a $50,000 endowment established by the late Isadore A. Shrager, a former College board member. The endowment supports the Center’s programs and activities. If you would like to make a contribution to support the Center for Law and Society and help it continue to offer unique, quality programs and activities that benefit students and the community, please contact the Office of Institutional Advancement at 215-751-8042.