When the COVID-19 pandemic started impacting communities in the Spring of 2020, colleges and universities were forced to taper off their in-person meetings and gatherings. Months later, professors are still faced with the challenge of keeping students engaged while abiding by new guidelines to keep their communities safe.
Providing an Outlet
Professor Monica Teixeira de Sousa was quick to recognize that students were going to need an outlet to engage in healthy discussion, and maintain a connection with their peers. In early April, she had the idea to launch New England Law's Fireside Chat Series. Each virtual chat of the series is run by Professor Teixeira de Sousa herself, who pulls in students, faculty, alumni, and sometimes even subject matter experts to present to the group and lead a discussion. Roaring fire, optional.
The series thus far has focused on relevant topics related to the pandemic. Groups of attendees have already delved into conversation about topics ranging from black maternal health and reproductive justice, to revisiting the 1973 San Antonio v. Rodriguez case, and even enjoyed an informal discussion about the group’s favorite reads of the summer. 3L student Kevin Goscila describes the chats as being “pertinent to New England Law classes while being interesting, relaxed and fun”.
Professor Teixeira de Sousa is looking forward to kicking off the fall semester with the first chat of the season: The Impact of COVID-19 on the Legal Profession. This first chat was entirely spearheaded and organized by student leaders of the Business Law Society, Tax Law Society, and Intellectual Property Law Association and is scheduled for Friday, September 18th. Professor Teixeira de Sousa will be joined by four New England Law alums who will discuss their experiences with telecommuting and productivity in different sectors of the legal field. Students, faculty, and staff can view upcoming fireside chats on the All Events Calendar.
Embracing a Virtual Format
The limitations presented by the pandemic have also allowed us to recognize that there are a lot of benefits to holding gatherings virtually. “Law students are busy; they’re juggling lives outside of the classroom,” Professor Teixeira de Sousa notes. “Finding a time where people are able and willing to get back to campus and attend an event can be a challenge. Hosting this series online means that it’s more accessible to all members of our community, which is why I think we’ve seen the attendance that we have thus far.” That realization has encouraged Professor Teixeira de Sousa to keep the series in an online format, even after the pandemic has passed.
Have a topic suggestion for Professor Teixeira de Sousa? She welcomes you to send them her way.