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Friday, September 29, 2023

Academics & Research

Law Center accepts its first dual degree undergraduate students

The Law Center accepted three students from the law and undergraduate dual degree program into the class of 2021. Mason Malone, left, and Stephanie Nweke start law school this fall. | Corbin Ayres/The Cougar

Three years after UH launched its 3+3 undergraduate and law dual degree program, the Law Center will receive the program’s first cohort as part of the class of 2021.

The Honors College, Law Center and College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences formed a partnership in 2015 to create an undergraduate and law dual degree program, where students major in liberal studies — a degree consisting of three minors. They receive a minor in phronesis, one in the subject of their choice and their law degree counts as the third.

“We have an opportunity within the Honors College for exceptional students to potentially complete their undergraduate studies in three years,” said Alison Leland, director of Honors Pre-Law and Public Service. “Then in what would be their senior year, they begin their studies at the UH Law Center.”

To take part in 3+3, Leland said students must first be admitted into the Honors College and then apply to enroll into the program.

Those accepted into the program receive their bachelor’s degree only after their first year of law school, she said. Some students within the program decide not to enroll in law school and graduate in four years instead of three.

Law school applicants accepted by the Law Center tend to have at least a 3.5 GPA and a 159 on the LSAT, Leland said.

The Law Center accepted all three students who applied from the program’s first cohort into the Class of 2021.

Those interested in attending other law schools, or those deciding not to attend at all, are free to complete their degrees in four years.

Mason Malone, the first 3+3 student accepted into the Law Center, said he benefited most from the mentorship and exposure available in the program.

Leland introduced students to people within the legal community, Malone said, in addition to exposing them to the different ways they can use a law degree.

She also gave Malone advice whenever he needed it. Leland even helped him land an internship with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, he said.

Students in the 3+3 program get additional preparation because the program allows them to see the different career paths available, he said.

Although the summer classes they took at the Law Center lacked the intensity of an actual law class, Malone said the opportunity gave them a preview of what it would be like.

“Probably the greatest help has been maybe just fully understanding that nothing in undergrad can fully prepare you,” Malone said. “It’s just so hard to be prepared, because from what I’ve heard, it’s just nothing like what you’ve ever had before.”

Though law school waives his third minor, Malone is majoring in economics and minored in public relations and Phronesis, the study of moral philosophy, classical literature, political theory and ethics.

The program also allows students to build close relationships with their peers, Malone said. He’s good friends with the other two students in his group, and they mentor students in other cohorts.

Stephanie Nweke, one of the students in the program’s first cohort, said she minored in psychology and Phronesis, with law school counting as her third.

“I think what I see improving is the directors of the program creating a safe space for the students and the program to explore what they want to do, even if that doesn’t involve going to law school early,” Nweke said.

Being around people with similar ambitions and qualities, like Malone, makes it easier to get through potential obstacles, she said.

Nweke is the only female student in this cohort, so she said her experience differed from Malone’s. But being female hasn’t taken away any of the opportunities available to her.

“It helps you kind of sit back for the ride and enjoy it rather than focusing on getting to the final destination,” Nweke said.

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