Inside the den

Kirk Walter leads Loyola’s highly ranked Weekend JD program

Kirk Walter is assistant dean of the School of Law’s part-time JD program, called Weekend JD. Here, he shares his insider’s view of what makes this highly ranked program so special.

What’s a key characteristic of students in the Weekend JD program?

Our weekend students share a unique determination. Almost all of them work full time. Almost all have family responsibilities. About one-third come from a distance that requires plane travel. This program demands a type of commitment—of time, effort and money—that people only make when they’re incredibly driven to get the access that a JD provides.

What is most gratifying about your job?

Anyone in our students’ circumstances, which are intense, would be forgiven for being curt or grumpy, but our students are so kind. They don’t all agree on political or social issues, and they come from a wide range of backgrounds, but they consistently interact with humor, compassion, and kindness.

“This program demands a type of commitment—of time, effort and money—that people only make when they’re incredibly driven to get the access that a JD provides.”

Describe your relationship with students.

I’ve been described as the “den mother,” and I love it! Professors hold all students to the same academically rigorous standards, so I try to be the counterbalance to that. I keep a whole 7-Eleven in my office for students: snacks, Band-Aids, aspirin, Tide To Go pens, a sewing kit. I hope they feel that I care about them as people, because I really do.

What’s important about the program being two-thirds on campus and one-third online?

Research shows that hybrid instructional models deliver the best outcomes for students. We know our students want to digest materials asynchronously and then play with those ideas in a lively classroom environment. Also, there’s more to becoming an attorney than memorizing the law. There’s a professional way of being that needs to be learned, and it’s best developed through interpersonal communication that can’t happen in the same way online.

What do you see that others might not?

I keep up with students after graduation, and I see their personal and professional transformation. For example, we had a student who was an immigrant, and she had an incredibly negative experience with U.S. immigration courts. Now she’s fighting to help people like herself. A lot of our students have experienced or witnessed unfairness in the legal system, and they’re driven to get this degree to help others. They realize they had no control over the world as they found it, but once they have this education, they can help the next person who’s coming along. –Liz Miller (November 2022)

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Loyola University Chicago School of Law is a student-focused law center inspired by the Jesuit tradition of academic excellence, intellectual openness, and service to others.

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