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Transforming scholarship into a syllabus

Loyola law profs bring their specialized research expertise into the classroom

Loyola Associate Professor of Law Stephen Rushin has spent years researching police reform and crime prevention. So, when he teaches his Police Accountability course, he starts with deep expertise—and brings it to life in the classroom.

“The research I do isn’t just adjacent to what I teach; it’s what I teach,” says Rushin, who uses a wide array of empirical methodologies to study how legal changes and remedies influence the behavior of judges and police officers. “Almost every topic we cover in this course is something I’ve examined in depth.”

Loyola law students benefit from the specialized scholarship of Rushin and other law professors who embed their research into their teaching. In multiple areas ranging from juvenile justice to food and drug law to human rights in the global economy, Loyola’s outstanding faculty members share their own research findings in the classroom—and their students react enthusiastically.

“You can see Professor Rushin’s passion for his subject as he shares his own research in the field,” says Kimaya Davis, a 3L who took the Police Accountability course this fall and is planning a career in criminal justice reform. “He brings his whole self to the classroom space all the time.”

“The research I do isn’t just adjacent to what I teach; it’s what I teach.”

Inviting student participation in research

The author of the book Federal Intervention in American Police Departments (Cambridge University Press, 2017), Rushin has published in many flagship law journals. Numerous national media outlets have featured his research.

His Police Accountability course, offered annually, covers civil remedies, criminal prosecutions, and federal statutory authority that leads to consent decrees for police departments, including Chicago’s.  “We talk about hot topics including body cameras, policing technology, and predictive policing,” says Rushin. He begins every class with a component he calls Policing in the News, “which gives students an opportunity to connect current events with the course material,” he says.

Rushin also actively involves students in his current research. Right now, he’s studying court decisions that permit officers to engage in pretextual stops of individuals—and examining the effects of such stops on racial profiling.

“We’ve spent a lot of time in class discussing how to prove racial profiling as an evidentiary matter,” says Rushin, explaining that he asks students to review and provide feedback on the persuasiveness of his data.

“It’s an example of using new research as a teaching tool,” he adds. “If students are going to work in this field, they’ll need to know how to evaluate methodologies.”

“Professor Rushin tells us this research is a work in a progress and asks for our genuine feedback,” Davis says. “I appreciate that transparency and openness to criticism. It really fosters the educational environment because we’re learning from each other. He challenges us—‘What would you implement if you were a mayor, an activist, a policymaker?’—and gives us an opportunity to help create an alternative or solution to the problems we’re facing.”

From single course to deep dive

Anne-Marie Rhodes, the John J. Waldron Professor of Law, teaches courses in estate-and-gift tax, income tax, estate planning, trusts and estates, and comparative law. Much of her research centers on art law, an area that overlaps and intertwines with her other areas of emphasis. She’s the author of the casebook Art Law and Transactions (Carolina Academic Press, 2011) and a sought-after speaker on art law topics.

Rhodes’ art law expertise grew out of a single, one-credit course she developed for Loyola’s summer law program in Rome. Rhodes saw an art law course as a natural fit for a program in the masterpiece-filled Eternal City, but also as a way to connect legal concepts students had learned in their first year of law school

Law through the lens of art, Rhodes explains, is criminal (stolen or forged works), civil procedure (bringing suit against someone from another country, for example), property law (who owns this work?), contract law (buying or selling works), and much more. “It’s an effective—and fun—way to show students how to apply what they’ve been learning,” she says.

From that initial course—still a frequent offering in the Rome curriculum—Rhodes developed a full course, Art Law. Offered every other year, this three-credit course delves deeper into the field to include substantial exercises in transactional law. “For instance, we draft a contract commissioning a work of art and write agreements for loaning art to museums,” she says. “We move beyond the big concepts to the nuts and bolts of being a lawyer.”

“We move beyond the big concepts to the nuts and bolts of being a lawyer.”

The fast-moving, constantly evolving legal issues surrounding art are both a source of fascination and a challenge to Rhodes. “Today, the art market is very global,” she says of her expanding emphasis on international and comparative law. In cases including ownership of artworks stolen by the Nazis or Cuba’s Castro regime, for example, multiple state and private actors and competing case law and jurisdictions “create a lot of layers that have to be peeled back very carefully,” she says.

Although Rhodes emphasizes that art law on its own offers limited career paths—instead inviting learners to hone their legal skills using the art world as a template—3L Melissa Shannon is among the minority of students hoping to pursue a career in the field. Shannon became interested in the copyright and trademark infringements she saw while working in the diamond and jewelry industry. She now plans a career in intellectual property law with an emphasis on art law as it applies to jewelry.

Shannon took both the introductory art law course in Rome and the in-depth version offered back in Chicago. “The one-credit Rome course helps drive home a lot of the main 1L topics, and the three-credit course gives you a deeper background with more skill-building,” Shannon explains. “Professor Rhodes is really in tune with the art world, so she provides a lot of real-life stories and examples that provide invaluable context.”

Davis agrees with Shannon that a major benefit of being exposed to professors’ own research is the opportunity to line up the doctrinal with the practical.

“In law school, we’re learning concepts and theories that can often seem abstract,” adds Davis. “Having professors bring their own work into the classroom helps us make crucial connections.”

Teaching enriched by research

Here’s a sampling of this spring’s Loyola law courses designed around faculty members’ areas of research focus:

  • Natural Resources Law/Biodiversity and Ecosystem (Kalyani Robbins)
  • Food and Drug Law/Genetics Law and Policy (Jordan Paradise)
  • Family Law (Sacha Coupet)
  • Business Practice Transactional Skills (James Hagy)
  • Human Rights in the Global Economy (James Gathii)
  • Interdisciplinary Seminar on Domestic Violence (Zelda Harris)
  • Humanitarian Law and Practice/The Use of Force in International Domestic Law (John Dehn)
  • Immigration Detention Project (Katherine Kaufka Walts)
  • Juvenile Justice Seminar (Diane Geraghty)
  • Law and Cultural Property (Sarah Waldeck)
  • International Arbitration Public and Private Seminar (Margaret Moses)