| 03.19.2018

Culture through CLEO – CLEO Pilot program aims to increase diversity among law students


College of Law Director of Admissions Carole Wells grew up in a large family, but growing up, nobody spoke about going to college around the dining room table.

As a result, Wells said she found that pursuing a higher education was more of a challenge for her, because unlike in the households of her peers, college was not an expectation.

Income inequality among students is one of the many gaps the University of Idaho College of Law is trying to fill with its participation in a national pilot program.

The CLEO Legally Inspired Cohort, also known as CLIC, is one of the Council on Legal Education Opportunity”s newest pilot programs aimed at helping diverse students better obtain a legal education.

“It will add diversity to our little school of 109 students and not much diversity,” Wells said. “(Participants) get more personalized attention so they can be successful, so they”re not falling through the cracks.”

Wells said the program will help students who may encounter more disadvantages in pursuit of a legal education than their peers, whether it”s because of gender, race or social class.

“Diversity encompasses all kinds of things,” Wells said. “Even how you grew up and what you talked about around the dining room table.”

Bernetta Hayes, CLEO”s admissions administrator, said CLEO”s first program, a six-week long pre-law summer institute designed to help diverse students better transition into law school, began in 1968.

The concept of that first pre-law program has expanded over the last 15 to 20 years, still striving to provide students the tools needed to succeed ahead of time, Hayes said.

“That”s if they”re prepared through this summer program, sent to a welcoming environment, they have mentors and other collaborative materials, if we had all of these elements, students could succeed despite other issues.”

In addition to adding new programs over the years, the council has fused programs together, and Hayes said CLIC serves as a hybrid between CLEO and the Posse Foundation”s posse program.

“We have taken the example of the Posse Foundation, which sends young people from high school to college in a cohort, a group, or a posse,” Hayes said.

CLIC recruits and trains 20 law school applicants from diverse backgrounds and sends sets of five students to four states across the country.

Hayes said the idea behind CLIC is that students are more likely to succeed when they are introduced into a new environment with peers who can help act as a support network.

Wells said adding more diversity to classrooms takes pressure off of individual students who might be the only ones in the room representing a specific population.

“When you admit one African American or one Latino student, they are representing their whole race,” Wells said. “Every time there”s an issue in a case, everybody in the class turns to that one student and says, “Well, what do you think?” and it”s not fair to the student.”

Wells said she believes the program will serve not only the students coming to UI, but also the College of Law as a whole.

“It”s just beneficial for institutions to have all kinds of people at their school,” Wells said. “It”s a place where you talk about ideas and ideas come from people”s minds and those people get them from who they are – it”s a marketplace of ideas and you want to have as big of a shopping place as possible.”

Corrin Bond  can be reached at arg-news@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @corrbond

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