Exploring Law in an International Context

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Cindy Luo, COL ’20

While I was interning abroad at the University of Minho Law School in Braga, Portugal, most of my weeks consisted of assisting the Assistant Dean in editing and compiling articles and master’s theses for an electronic law journal as well as going over research proposals and using databases to find specific sources. This was my first introduction to this type of work, and although I have no legal background, I thoroughly enjoyed the process of learning as I go and applying my new knowledge with each task. For me, one of the highlights of this internship experience actually happened in a classroom because I had the unique opportunity to take a LL.M. class in the European and Transglobal Business Law Department titled: “Legal Aspects of Investment in China”.

This class was taught by a Chinese professor who told us that it was her first time teaching a class in English. Initially, I was very intimidated to take a class with graduate students taught by a Chinese professor, but my fears and apprehension was soon overtaken by sheer curiosity and determination to engage with new people, new ideas, and new ways of learning. Professor Yi really emphasized comparative legal systems and frameworks; she encouraged us to engage in open dialogue and discussion about how the law works in our respective home countries whether it be Portugal or China or Brazil or the United States, etc.

In learning about the legal aspects of investment in China, I got my first taste of business law, international taxation law, contract law, and intellectual property law, all explained through a global context. While these fields of law never explicitly appealed to me as much as human rights law, immigration law, or criminal law, I was able to see how all these different fields are interconnected and relate in one way or another to social change and progress. Taking this course in conjunction with this internship allowed me to appreciate the universality of the rule of law and what it essentially means for people living in different parts of the world. It allowed me to think about the gap between what is written and what is actually practiced.  

Throughout this course and this internship, I also thought a lot about what I potentially want to do after graduation, and particularly if law school is the right choice for me. Our final assignment for the class was to present and analyze a case study, gathering the basic facts of the case, the disputes, the legal issues, the judgement and reasoning. The hardest part of the assignment was making sense of the legal procedures in the case and interpreting the outcome through what I perceived to be very convoluted legal writing. But by the end of the class, however, I was proud of being able to contextualize what I learned about the Chinese legal system and framework of laws in relation to investment. More so than understanding the content, I was proud of being able to decode the complex, technical legal language. Likewise, the topics and the terminology of the articles and theses that I was editing became much more comprehensible after the class. All in all, critical thinking, logical analysis, and organized legal writing are some of the most important skills to develop as a potential law student; having this opportunity here in Portugal has been integral in helping me do that. As I come back to Penn and enter my junior year, I hope to be able to explore law on a deeper level and to gain more exposure to different fields of law. (I will be taking a Law & Social Change class as well as acting as the ambassador for the Law & Policy Sociology Interest Group). I am still finding my way and figuring things out, but this experience showed me that I have what it takes to succeed in law school if or when I choose to go. Being abroad here in Portugal and interning at the University of Minho Law School has taught me how to practice flexibility and patience–with myself, with others, and with the world. You can choose to learn at your own pace, and there’s certainly a difference between taking your time and wasting your time. I learned to trust my instincts and to be more self-confident in going after what I want. I understand that you do not have to be the smartest person in the room to contribute something valuable. You do not have to be the most outspoken to have your voice heard. And you do not have to have a law degree to help someone. You just have to be willing and open-minded and embrace the challenges, uncertainty, and failures that come along with the process. Understand

To Adjunct or not to Adjunct, That Is the Question

By Dr. Esther Ra, Advisor in the School of Nursing, Graduate School of Education, and School of Social Policy and Practice

Recently, I have had several students inquire about teaching as an adjunct in community colleges and in neighboring universities in Philadelphia. Have you ever wondered about teaching as an adjunct faculty member? What exactly is this and what does it entail? As someone who has been teaching since my doctoral student days, I do get frequently asked about how one can break into this arena.

What exactly is an adjunct faculty member and what do you do?

An adjunct faculty member or professor is someone who teaches university level courses on a contractual basis, sometimes renewing a contract from semester to semester. The word “adjunct” means supplementary or auxiliary, and as an adjunct professor, you are exactly that, an additional faculty member who has been hired to help teach courses for a department. While adjunct professors are not hired at the level of a tenure-track professor, nor are they one of the main professors in the department, adjuncts are relied upon to do a part (and sometimes it is a large part) of the load of teaching in the department. Typically, adjunct faculty are not expected to participate in research, partake in department committee work, or delve into university service. While it’s not expected for an adjunct to do such activities, many do dabble in some of the same work as tenure-track professors, depending on their interests and time. Above all, an adjunct faculty member will be expected to have an experienced skill set in teaching at the college level, (and in some cases, the graduate level), which will most likely be the sole focus and expectation of the adjunct.

Why Do You Want to Adjunct?

In some respect, it’s important to think about why one would like to take on an adjunct faculty position. Do you want to improve your teaching skill set? Do you want to become more familiar with a topic in your field? Do you want to have a better understanding of working with undergraduate students or graduate students? There’s a myriad of reasons why many people would like to have an adjunct job, but it’s important to pinpoint a direct reason. Adjuncting is not always a glamorous position, nor does the pay and recognition correlate to the level of education a typical adjunct achieves, often a PhD or a master’s in a given field. Knowing why you want to pursue this path, as well as, what you’d like to gain from it, is important to know before jumping two feet into this world. The frustrations of adjunct life are notorious (and I won’t delve into them here), and one may grow jaded early on in the process. Without a clear understanding of goals, the teaching load may sideswipe a newbie, if not tempered in thought and expectation.

How Does Adjunct Hiring Work?

Without getting into the controversy of adjunct hiring, if you would like to enhance your teaching in higher education in a part-time capacity, adjunct teaching is a great way to develop this skill set. Even with lesser duties than a tenure-track professor, an adjunct position is often difficult to negotiate. I am often told by students who come to see me during appointments, that they have a difficult time breaking into this world. I would have to agree with them, that it IS a difficult arena to crack, however, it is also important to note, that even though an adjunct is auxiliary in a department, your CV cannot be “auxiliary.” Your CV still needs to be impressive and polished. With many students in the wings eager to become an adjunct – whether it be a doctoral student, a newly minted PhD, or a seasoned higher education administrator, positions do not avail themselves equal to the number of highly qualified individuals who graduate from master’s and doctoral programs. Keep this in mind as you apply to jobs! It can very much be a waiting game, but if you’re patient, the right opportunity may come knocking on your door.

With that being said, depending on where you are interested in teaching, typically most adjuncts have their doctoral degrees and are well versed in the courses they teach. They are often familiar with the content and courses books for the courses taught, by way of their own research or interests. In some cases, particularly in smaller colleges and community colleges, an accomplished individual with their master’s can also fill an adjunct role. Knowledge and extensive practical experience in the content area is a huge plus in this case, and highly valued.

Networking to Find an Adjunct Position

As with many jobs, networking to find an adjunct position is likely one of the best strategies for finding a job in the field you hope to teach. Start by talking to your advisor. Perhaps you could serve as a Teaching Assistant in one of the courses you’ve taken before that you enjoyed. Perhaps, you could offer to grade and take care of administrative duties of a course before attempting to teach one on your own. Likely without direct teaching experience or course management experience, either in a teaching or graduate assistantship, it will be difficult to be competitive for an adjunct position.

If you’ve already talked to your advisor, consider approaching other professors, either in the same department or in other departments. To do this successfully, you must look to see what content you are familiar with and what you would feel comfortable teaching. There is a lot of overlap in departments and you could be eligible to teach in several departments, depending on the need. For example, an individual who studied educational policy, may be useful in a higher education department, but could also be relevant in a social policy department. Often the interdisciplinary nature of one’s own interests lends itself to opportunities, not just in one field, but in several fields. Take a good, hard look at your training and comfort level, and I am willing to bet, ideas to pursue several different departments will emerge. Brainstorm with your advisors and get their input.

Contacting Departments/Schools to Apply/ Strategic Informational Interviewing

It may seem archaic, but sometimes, cold contacting or networking is a strategy one may need to employ. Why? As a student or a newly minted PhD, these positions may already be filled by senior adjuncts, who have been teaching the same courses year after year. In this case, it may be beneficial to look outside your department. In addition, your interest area may be quite specific and only a handful of universities will have the fields you are interested in teaching. This is often the case, particularly in certain fields with those who have obtained a PhD. An example of this may be a newly minted PhD graduate, a historian of a specific era of US history; some departments can only have allowances for one or maybe two adjuncts in this area, depending on the size of their school. If it’s a specific niche, the opportunities may be even tougher to find. This is when contacting department heads and or hiring professors, or even human resources of colleges and universities who host your field, would be a strategic move. Call the appropriate professors or email them. Introduce yourself and your interest areas and ask to set up an informational interview. Send your CV. It may be that your CV is held “on file” with a “pool of adjuncts.” You may need to play the waiting game, at which time, you may be called when a position becomes available. It takes strategic networking and follow up. This all takes much time and patience. Obtaining an adjunct position isn’t impossible, but it can be challenging without taking strategic steps. As a teacher educator myself, I will tell you that it can be an immensely rewarding position. There is a joy in sharing your expertise and experience with students, and/or new trainees in your field.  While I am fully aware there is a whole host of politics that accompany adjunct hiring, almost all faculty members I know, don’t stay teaching as an adjunct for the compensation (because the pay can be dismal) or for the recognition. They enjoy developing and keeping abreast of their skills, furthering themselves in a field of interest, and sharing their trained knowledge with university students.

Centre for Multilingualism and Diversities Research

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Esther Yoshiko Liu, GSE ’19

With my goal of becoming a university-based Language Policy & Planning expert, I arranged my unpaid mid-Master’s program internship at the Centre for Multilingualism and Diversities Research at University of Western Cape this past summer. Through my Research Fellows position there, enabled by generous Penn Career Services funding, I built an experiential base from which to discern whether and where to pursue doctoral studies.

In South Africa, I tried on the linguistic anthropologist’s hat for fit – an awkward, floppy hat by design. Channeling Hortense Powdermaker, diving into the process of inscribing community contexts and the full humanity of others, discovering how culture shock and difference are the heart and soul of my field; these tasks of suspending my own norms to subject myself to others’ constraints, and immersing myself as deeply, widely, and openly as possible in human interactions and communicative events were rehumanizing and restorative. They strengthened my intercultural agility and built confidence that I am well wired for this line of work. Through engaging with Southern theory I grew in understanding of my own University’s place of power and privilege, which granted perspective and conviction on how to steward these well through my own academic pursuits.

I collaborated with global leaders in the field of Language Policy & Planning, notably, through working at the 20th International Congress of Linguists. There at my first major academic conference, I was surprised by the approachability of the top scholars (whom I’d previously encountered only by way of footnotes), how invested they were in encouraging graduate students and young/beginning researchers, how they embodied the professional values to which I aspire. I was entrusted with mentoring undergrads and Master’s students in ethnographic field methods, and appreciated “interning” in the fullest sense: My supervisors treated me like a colleague, and gave me concrete opportunities to be (as if) one of them.

I evaluated pious ambitions of South Africa’s multilingual language policy, which grants 11 previously stratified languages equal constitutional footing against the actual implementation of these policies on the ground in creches, colleges, and communities. Outside of 9-to-5 office hours, I got enveloped into the wide web of Western Cape families, and welcomed into their life events, including weddings, funerals, baby showers, 50th birthday bashes, and more — an anthropologist’s dream! All this occurred in a climate of resource scarcity, as Cape Town is limping out of its recent water crisis, and as the historically disadvantaged university where I was based continues to establish itself as a top research institution in Africa. This context accentuated how language differences are implicated in negotiating access to vital resources, and whose concerns get voiced and heard.

The role of language in political conflict and social inequity is often ignored. But within Educational Linguistics, my division at Penn GSE, we examine how language practices and policies (especially through institutionalized education) can either disrupt or reproduce these economic and educational inequalities. My summer research experience put these processes of interactional sociolinguistics under the microscope, and confirmed my abiding interest in linguistic justice as it relates to diversity and human flourishing. It extended my commitment to work through linguists’ lenses, stewarding the great resources and training at Penn to contribute to illuminating the correlative and causal relationships between social fragmentation and language grievances.

CS Radio – Episode 85: “Mom & Pop”

There have been a lot of stories in the news this month about parents getting perhaps TOO involved in their children’s lives. When is it appropriate for a parent to get involved with their child’s career search? How can parents work with Career Services? This week, Myelene and Michael are answering all those questions and more! Enjoy!

The Effects on Language Acquisition in Children

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Breyasia Scott, COL ’20

I was drawn to this PURM project at the Child Language and Learning Lab because of my minor in American Sign Language/Deaf Studies. My minor required me to take classes in the Linguistics field, and from there I became really interested in how children acquire language.

At the Dr. Schuler’s lab I ran a training experiment called the Pattern Learning Study. The goal of the Pattern Learning Study was to see how kids learn language in an inconsistent environment and how they differ from adults at doing so. Inconsistent input is language input that contains mistakes or errors. This often occurs when the language teacher is not a native speaker of the language that the child in learning. In this particular study, children learned an artificial language called Silly Speak in which they would expose to two different plural markers, ka and po. In the exposure portion of the computer game, ka was heard 67% of the time, making in the majority plural marker and po was heard 33% of the time, making it the minority plural marker. In language acquisition, it is typical for children to overgeneralize and use the form they hear the most, whereas adults tend to replicate the percentage that they hear. Therefore, in the Pattern Learning Study, in the production level of the game, where participants had to provide an ending, we expected children to produce ka 100% of the time and po 0% of the time. In contrast, we expected adults to produce ka 67% of the time and po 33% of the time.

This summer I learned that it takes years to develop research and the conditions must be perfect. It’s easy to coerce children to give you the answer that you want but that results in unusable data. Furthermore, I learned quite a lot about myself while working at the Child Language and Learning Lab. While I loved some of the more interactive parts of research such as reading the literature reviews on previous work done in the field and playing with children participants to make them feel comfortable in the lab, I didn’t really enjoy the more technical aspects like inputting data and learning how to code. Because research requires all of these steps, I don’t think the field is quite right for me. I, however, look forward to reading literature reviews of the studies conducted by my peers in the future.