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Tulane online Master of Jurisprudence students connect during Immersion Weekend

July 24, 2023 11:45 AM
Alina Hernandez ahernandez4@tulane.edu

Photos: Tracie Morris Schaefer


Students in Tulane Law’s Online Master of Jurisprudence often say the same thing about their experience – that it changed their life, gave them the confidence to speak about the law, and their career benefited greatly.


 “It gave me the confidence to start my own business,” said alumna Pavithri Kilgore (MJ’21), who owns KPSK Consulting, a human resources firm.

“It gave me a wide-range view of employment law,” said Ray McComb, a current student from Houston, Texas. “It’s also important that it’s based on academic foundations.”

“There are some real-life practical takeaways in employment that I can apply to the workforce,” said Kim Kneidel, another current student from Houston. “I have definitely seen the growth and development in my career because of the program.”

In less than eight years, the online program in labor and employment law has graduated more than 450, many of them working in as many industries as there are students – oil and gas, entertainment, manufacturing, and human resources. Two years ago, the program expanded to include degrees in energy and environmental law. The first graduates with those degrees attended commencement this summer.

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In late July, more than 95 current students – some just starting and some close to earning their Master of Jurisprudence, arrived at Weinmann Hall to explore the Tulane campus and build a deeper connection to their peers during the Immersion Weekend. The event has become a staple of Tulane’s MJ programs; while the coursework is done entirely online, students are required to attend one Immersion Weekend so that they may meet their professors and classmates in person, learn from industry leaders delivering workshops and lectures, and participate in a variety of social activities, like a New Orleans second line and refreshing sno-balls.

The weekend events included a second line to dinner.

The program, which has about 150 students currently enrolled, has seen significant student success.

“One of my favorite aspects of the Tulane MJ programs is that they offer life-changing education to our graduates,” said Senior Director of Online Programs and the Moise S. Steeg Associate Professor of Law Saru Matambanadzo.  “The education our students receive at Tulane changes their lives, providing space to build confidence and develop competencies for often unimagined paths.”

This year’s Immersion Weekend program featured a number of exciting presentations including a roundtable of General Counsels from different industries including Ann Blaylock Bacon (GE Aerospace), Aurelio J. Perez (Wonolo), and Rhonda Stewart Goldstein (University of California). The roundtable discussed with students what they, from the perspective of a General Counsel’s Office, wanted Human Resource Managers to know as they guided managers and employees. Other discussions featured throughout the weekend included a panel on the history and future of labor law and organizational labor, presentations on non-compete agreements, depositions in employment law cases, and much more.   

Students in the environmental and energy law programs met with leaders from industry, law and government discussing the present and future of energy and environment and the unique role the MJ graduates have to play as the rare few who are well-versed in law, science, engineering, and management. They took a field trip to the Entergy New Orleans Solar Station and Lake Borgne’s Surge Barrier where they saw firsthand the application of the concepts they’re learning in the program.

The keynote speakers for the weekend were Professor D. Wendy Greene (L ‘02), the Director of the Center for Law Policy & Social Action at the Thomas R. Kline Drexel University School of Law and Manisha Patel, the Deputy Executive Director of the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council. Greene is a nationally-recognized leader in the movement to pass the Crown Act through her organization, #FreetheHair, which is advocating to end discrimination on the basis of hair. Patel is leading a unique federal agency charged with improving the transparency, predictability, and outcomes of the federal environmental review and authorization process for certain large-scale critical infrastructure projects.

Professor Matambanadzo with Professor Wendy Greene (L'02),
one of the keynote speakers of the weekend.

Tulane’s MJ Program in labor and employment law was launched in 2015 for non-lawyers in the human resources space; it graduated its first students in May 2018. With its immediate relevance and the addition of its two new specialties, the Tulane online programs are regularly recognized among the top 10 in the country in educational quality.

In welcoming the MJ students to Tulane Law, Interim Dean Sally Richardson highlighted the opportunities created from earning a Tulane degree.

“Our graduates – you, upon finishing this program – gain an invaluable credential in labor and employment law, in energy law, in environmental law, that allows them move forward in their organizations, to move to new industries, to achieve the jobs of their dreams, to truly gain the knowledge, the confidence, the vision, and the ability to take your career to whatever heights you want to achieve,” she said.

“Look at Fortune 500 companies, at large tech firms, at leading oil and gas operations, and you will see our MJ graduates leading the charge,” said Dean Richardson.

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Professor Mark Davis who directs the MJ in environmental and energy law program, said students come to Tulane with a broad range of skills, wanting to learn even more.

“Our students come to us from across the country and with a wide range of experience but they share a common belief that a firmer grounding in environmental and energy law will make them better at their current jobs and prepare them for opportunities down the line,” he said. “That they have chosen Tulane to help them do that is incredibly gratifying.”

Program alumni including Kilgore and others have launched the Tulane Labor and Employment Law Alumni Association –and created a niche space for alumni of the program to continue to connect and provide networking opportunities for former and current students. The organization was started under the direction of Professor Elizabeth Townsend Gard, the Assistant Director of the MJ in Labor and Employment Law.