Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School today marks the fifth anniversary of signing affiliation and licensing agreements that brought it under the umbrella of Western Michigan University. On July 19, 2013, Law School President and Dean Don LeDuc and then-WMU President John Dunn signed the agreements setting the stage for the deep cooperation and collaboration that has resulted in more than 200 joint initiatives. There are plenty of reasons to celebrate, but here are what we think are the top five.
- Shared Mission and Goals: Just like in any marriage, it's the values and shared beliefs that are the foundation of a successful union. Both the law school and WMU believe in “graduating students who possess requisite knowledge, master appropriate practical skills, and understand and embrace professionalism and ethics," and both are committed “to providing access to education and improving diversity within their educational programs and the society into which their students graduate.”
- Heightened Academic Life: The schools envisioned that the affiliation will enhance the breadth of academic life at both institutions, providing many great benefits. Having by then already established three formal academic agreements and being informal partners for 15 years, the schools stated their intention “to develop the nation’s most comprehensive integration of law and other disciplines, as well as to integrate many current programs, projects, and services currently operated separately by each school.”
- Strengthened Reputations: With the affiliation, WMU became associated with one of what was then only 203 degree-conferring American Bar Association-accredited law schools, only 82 of which were part of public universities. The affiliation further elevated the status of WMU among the nation’s leading universities. The Law School, then one of 21 independent, ABA-accredited law schools, became associated with one of a select group of 147 public universities in the country identified by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as research universities, only 73 of which, like WMU, were rated as high research universities.
- Elevated Collaboration: The affiliation allowed both institutions to collaborate in ways they never were able to before. Straight out of the gate, following approvals by accrediting agencies, the American Bar Association and the Higher Learning Commission, both WMU-Cooley President and Dean Don LeDuc and then-WMU President John Dunn were amazed by the level of collaboration across the board. “We have joined together to teach in one another’s classes," stated President LeDuc, "and we have continued to collaborate on symposia, research, and clinical programs. We now share space in each other’s facilities and learn from one another about how to improve our ability to deliver high-quality education to our students. This has been done in a very short period of time. I am impressed by this success, and thank the faculty, staff, and governing boards at both institutions for their hard work and vision."
- Increased Value to Students: The schools share the mission and goals of giving their students an outstanding education, along with teaching practical skills in learning environments that embrace professionalism and ethics. Both schools are deeply committed to providing access to education and improving diversity within their educational programs and the society into which their students graduate. WMU's commitment to diversity is enhanced by WMU-Cooley's initiatives and programs. WMU-Cooley is proud of its enrollment of minority students. Students come from across the nation and around the world – all learning in a welcoming, supportive and rich community environment.
Following the accreditation approvals, the affiliation became formally operative on August 13, 2014. Between now and the fifth anniversary of that date, the Law School will present a continuing series of stories highlighting the many accomplishments the affiliation has brought.