Stetson Law’s Center of Excellence in Higher Ed Law & Policy

August 24, 2021

Stetson Law is privileged to have many Centers and Institutes that allow students to explore varied legal interests as well as attend sponsored conferences, workshops, receive scholarships and participate in research projects. 

One of these is the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy, which fosters thought leadership and research in the higher education industry. Students interested in higher education law and policy can find volunteer and internship opportunities, get connected with professionals in the industry, and participate in the Center’s annual national conference.

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The Center’s Mission

The Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy has been in operation for nearly 20 years, and has been growing ever since, according to Director and Professor of Law, Peter F. Lake. The Center acts as a leader in the U.S. and, increasingly, around the world as a leading academic resource among law schools. 

“If you look around, you really won't find a center quite like ours that's dedicated to helping individual students advance their careers, existing professionals doing research, communicating with newspapers and the media. We are really a thought leader in the field, but mostly, we're here to facilitate the people who come through the center as they evolve with higher education.”

The National Conference on Law and Higher Education

A key centerpiece of the Center is the National Conference on Law and Higher Education, which is a week-long national event that has been in operation for over 40 years.

“The conference has grown to a very large and very successful event that draws the top leaders and thinkers in the field, including the general counsel for the NCAA. I could go on and on with the luminaries who've come to visit with us,” said Professor Lake. “The beauty of this event is it still remains an academic event, academically focused for the benefit of Stetson's community and its students primarily. We even have students who appear on panels with national experts, both at the time that they are students and in some cases immediately following graduation, and even thereafter down the road.”

Making Connections at the Conference

The Conference helps Stetson Law students make valuable connections and even find career opportunities. Grace Moseley, Stetson Law student and Center Fellow, volunteered at the conference and had a wonderful experience. 

“I got to meet, virtually, a lot of really fantastic leaders and thought leaders in the field of higher education law and policy. I've been able to be in touch with deans of different universities all around the country. Professor Lake has put me in touch with legal counsel from the NCAA. When it comes to making those contacts, people are really open and excited to get to know you as a student in the center because they trust Professor Lake and the Center has such a wonderful reputation nationally. They're really excited to work with you and get to know you because they see you as a potential too.”

Students can speak with industry leaders from all different areas of higher education, discuss their career goals, and discover the latest issues in the higher education industry. The 2021 conference covered everything from intellectual property and free speech on campus to Title IX regulations and intercollegiate athletics law and policy.

Areas of Opportunity in Higher Ed Law

Higher education law and policy has a diverse range of opportunities, from athletics and admissions to litigation and diversity & inclusion. 

“As Director of the Center, it's my job to not simply present what's happening right now, but to try to imagine the future,” Professor Lake said. “I'm looking at a conference and a center and related events that's going to be very tuned in to the incredibly dynamic quality of higher education over the next 10 years.” 

“That includes all of the social issues that are on the front page of the newspapers, but it includes a lot of issues that you'd become more familiar with once you become involved with our Center. A lot of students come in and they're interested in athletics. Or they might be interested in working around admissions. They might be interested in the litigation and various dimensions that higher education finds itself in. Believe me, our students go on to work every dimension of courtroom activity that's associated with higher education.”

With the range of opportunities available, the Center really helps students find what they’re passionate about. 

“What I’m most excited about is finding what makes you tick and what will make you interested in higher education, because I guarantee you, there’s a place for you in this field if you’re interested in it, and I bet you might not have known that it’s out there.” 

Professor Lake takes the time to speak with students about what they’re interested in, even considering career opportunities they might not have thought of themselves. 

How Students Benefit From the Center

In addition to having access to all of the Center’s programming, which people from outside the school have to pay for, a key benefit of the Center is the personalized attention and dedication to every student’s career and research interests. 

“If you have any interest at all in higher education law and policy, we will sit with you and talk with you about how we can connect your particular interest and skills and abilities with the field,” Professor Lake said. 

A safe space for students

The Center also acts as a refuge and safe space for law school students that are under a lot of stress and demands. “We’re here to support people and a lot of folks come by the center to connect with like-minded people and find a safe space — a place where they can feel welcome and take some time to gather themselves and re-enter the fray of legal education.” 

For part-time law student Grace Mosely, the Center has made a huge impact on her experience at Stetson Law. 

“I love being a Center Fellow and working in the Center while I am a part-time student. It's been a really fantastic opportunity for me. It's just nice to have something accessible to part-time students. It can be a little bit harder when you're a part-time student to make the connections that you need to make to get involved with different extracurriculars and different organizations on campus. You can get as involved as you'd like, but if you are working full-time, or if you're a parent, it can be a little bit more challenging, and so I really appreciate how Professor Lake and many of the other center directors really take initiative to pull part-time students in and make sure that we're getting involved, and that we're not missing out on these fantastic opportunities that Stetson has to offer.”

Career placement services

Another benefit of the Center is the career placement services. People who connect heavily with the Center often go onto signature careers in higher education law & policy, either as practicing lawyers or in careers in which a JD provides an advantage, such as administrative or policy research positions.

Sometimes these jobs don’t even technically exist yet, according to Professor Lake.

“It is incredible the opportunities that the Center has created for many of these folks. Twice, we've created jobs that didn't exist for students. I've called college presidents and said, ‘I have somebody with magic skills. I think you need this person. Consider creating a job for them.’ And they've done that.”

Mentorship along the way

“One of my fondest memories from my first semester at Stetson was talking with Professor Lake after my class, and he said he could see me doing really well as an administrator for a college or university,” said Grace Mosely. “There have been some career opportunities that I had never really seen possible for myself that he has seen as a possibility for me and it’s been really nice to know that someone has the faith that you can do something like that and has the connections to actually help you get there. I’ve really appreciated the mentorship opportunity.”

That individualized attention is a unique feature of the Center, said Kaylie Murphy, Coordinator, Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law & Policy. “Professor Lake and the whole team, we really do our best just to get to know who you are and figure out what it is that you're specifically interested in. Higher education law and policy is so vast and there are so many different areas that you can get involved in.”

Students from a variety of backgrounds end up in the Center — some have a background in higher education, while others don’t, according to Professor Lake. 

“A number of our students come with prior experience in higher education in some way. Some have master’s degrees in higher education policy; others have worked as resident assistants or have been the leader of a Greek letter organization. I have folks who have had competition in intercollegiate athletics. There’s some connection. But in many cases, the good fit emerges while you're here at Stetson. It’s a pathway that you may have never considered until we talk to you about how your particular skills and interests might be a perfect fit for this kind of a world. That excites me the most — when I get a convert to this area, someone who anxiously and willingly says, ‘I never knew that higher ed did these things, or that I could do these things in higher ed, and that this could really be a path for me.’”

Find Your Place at Stetson Law

One of the things that makes Stetson Law special is the connection between the faculty, students and staff, and the level of dedication you will experience in finding 

"The real strength of Stetson Law in many ways is its Institutes and Centers, and the people who are so deeply committed to certain areas,” said Professor Lake. “Maybe you’re really interested in election law, or you want to help the elderly population in Florida. We’re not gonna try to capture you in the Center — we’ll help you find your place.” 

Ready to find your place at Stetson Law? Apply now.

Topics: Applying to Law School