Dean's Message | Fall & Winter 2021 | NEXUS Magazine | The Faculty of Law | UNB

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Dean's message

Together again and moving forward

This fall, we returned to in-person teaching at UNB Law after seventeen months of being apart. As I wrote in the last issue of Nexus, the pandemic-induced isolation had a particular impact on our community. As you know, one of UNB Law’s defining features is the intimacy of its learning environment. Throughout our history, our students and faculty have thrived because they were together—in limited number—and sharing the same spaces and experiences. We cherish deeply the special bonds that grow from this community atmosphere; they are part of our identity as a law school.

That’s why the pandemic was particularly hard for us. The thing that defines us—our togetherness—was taken away. We tried hard to make up for this loss through new initiatives like the UNB Law Podcast and the Alumni Mentorship Program, both of which have been well-received and will continue post-pandemic. But last year just wasn’t the same. Despite the logistical challenges and uncertainty, I’m so relieved that we’re together again, with the vast majority of our courses being offered in person, and students, faculty, and staff interacting in familiar ways in the Law Building. There is a lot more joy and optimism in the air.  

The progress we’ve been able to make on UNB Law’s strategic priorities is the other reason to be happy. Thanks to the generosity of so many of you, we completed the renovation of our student lounge. This revitalized space now has a large kitchen with plenty of storage and appliances, a large eating area, new modern furniture, and a stylish pool table that’s getting a lot of use. It’s wonderful to see students gathering in this space, forging relationships and building memories that will last a lifetime. 

As you’ll read in this issue, we also completed a long-overdue accessibility upgrade to our front entrance. This project wasn’t easy. In the summer, when construction was due to start, an underground wire was discovered, which would require additional engineering and delay the work by several months. This meant that construction would take place while courses were in session, producing noise and rendering the front door unusable for at least a month. 

But putting this vital project off for another year just wasn’t an option. If disabled members of our community had to use the back door for fifty years, then the rest of us would use it for a month so that everyone could finally enter through the front door. No one complained. And now we’re starting to have a building that reflects our values. But as Jeremy MacDonald (JD ’21) correctly points out, these improvements need to be part of a larger strategy to ensure that students of all backgrounds are able to study and thrive at UNB Law. This is a priority for us. 

Being together again has been made extra special with the return of two prominent alumni to UNB Law. As explained in this issue, the Hon. Graydon Nicholas (LLB ’71, LLD ‘15) is visiting the Faculty this year. His title is Wihkwatacamit, which is a Wolastoqey word that means “the person who loves to tell stories.” Graydon is helping faculty incorporate Indigenous perspectives into their courses, mentoring students, and conducting research on Indigenous systems of justice. In addition, Prof. James Lockyer (LLB ’75) is also visiting UNB Law to teach Trial Advocacy in the fall term. An expert in the field and a former Attorney General of New Brunswick, Jim brings decades of experience and a passion for teaching to UNB Law. I want to thank Graydon and Jim for joining us this year and for making such a positive contribution to our community. They are both accomplished UNB Law graduates and wonderful role models for our students.

Speaking of our students, they are grabbing the attention of legal employers across Canada. As our cover story shows, we placed more students on Bay Street this year than we have in at least a decade. In total, six of our students will be joining Canada’s top national law firms in 2022. I’m very proud of these students who earned these opportunities through their talent and hard work. I’m also very proud of what this result says about our Faculty and its potential. It shows that coming to UNB Law will open doors across Canada and around the world. We just need to make sure that people know what makes us special—our core curriculum and supportive learning environment, which set students up for success in whatever career path they choose. 

One of the reasons we were able to offer more help to our students in terms of their job applications is a staff restructuring that we completed this year. The focus of this project was to dedicate more resources to student and faculty support and position ourselves to achieve the goals in our Strategic Plan, while empowering our dedicated and talented employees to take on leadership roles.  

That restructuring starts with the appointment of Catherine Cotter (LLB ’02) as Associate Dean. As you’ll read later in this issue, Catherine is an experienced and accomplished academic leader. As Acting Dean for over a year, she was the steady hand at the helm of our academic program during the pandemic. We also promoted Wanda Foster to the position of Manager of Admissions and Scholarships, reflecting the leadership role that she plays in the recruitment and retention of our students. And Martha McClellan, our longtime Career Services Officer, was appointed Manager of Academic Affairs and Student Services. This new role leverages Martha’s considerable organizational skills to streamline our core functions while keeping her actively involved in career services. 

I realize that organizational restructuring isn’t the most exciting topic for an alumni newsletter. But it is critical in terms of setting us up for continued success. I’m very grateful to have such a hardworking team in place and I appreciate the University’s support in facilitating this process. 

Finally, you will be hearing a lot more about research in the coming months. In order to re-affirm ourselves as a top national law school, we need to boost our research profile. We will do this by appointing a Canada Research Chair (Tier 2) in Digital Information Law and Policy. This fall, we nominated a very impressive candidate to this post and we hope to make an announcement in the new year. In the meantime, our existing faculty are engaged in highly relevant projects, like Prof. Panezi’s new Trade Law and Carbon Pricing Lab, which you’ll read about in this issue.

I hope you enjoy this edition of Nexus and that you’re encouraged by the progress we’re making at UNB Law. I hope all of our alumni have a safe and joyful holiday season. I look forward to connecting with more of you in 2022.

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