Engaging Students Beyond the Classroom
From Courtroom to Classroom
March 5, 2021
The business law classes in the College of Business at Purdue University Northwest (PNW) are interactive and engaging courtesy of the teaching style of Shontrai Irving, clinical associate professor of business law at PNW. He encourages students to not just study past case laws but to interpret them; challenging students to think about what was important at the time of the decision, what’s going on now, how this would affect the decision today and how it impacts them on a personal and professional level.
Irving, who spent nine years as a corporate litigator for State Farm Insurance, believes the best way to learn is through discussion and interpretation and is quick to point out that much like society itself, the legal world is constantly evolving and changing. “I like to engage with students and that’s why my courses are very discussion-oriented,” states Irving. “It’s important to talk through the issues at the heart of each case and just as important for students to be able to interpret those decisions in the context of how society has evolved and what that means for them.”
Expanding The Classroom
An accomplished attorney, Irving was honored as the 2010 Outstanding Young Lawyer by the Indiana State Bar Association and just 10 years later, he was again honored by the Indiana State Bar Association by being appointed to the prestigious position of Counsel to the President. “I am humbled by the appointment,” states Irving. The position serves as an officer on the executive committee for the state bar association. Irving is the first African-American to serve in this position.
Irving puts his professional expertise to pedagogical ends by taking his class, quite literally, to the courtroom. Students watch him argue an actual case and afterward are able to ask questions and engage in a discussion with Irving, the prosecutor and judge. He’s also had Appeals on Wheels visit PNW which gave his students the opportunity to learn more about the judiciary process and meet and talk with the Court of Appeals judges. Irving also uses films based on real-life cases as a springboard for discussions in the classroom.
Ultimately, Irving hopes all the discussions and lessons serve as a reminder that being part of a community has a price. “I would hope students learn that part of doing well professionally is having a responsibility to help those in your community and make a difference in people’s lives,” states Irving.
Support Through Mentorship
This community consideration isn’t just a topic for the classroom. Irving was named a Scholarship of Engagement Fellow for the 2020-2021 academic year for his work developing a mentoring program that supports PNW students by matching them with mentors from the Indiana State, Lake County and Kimbrough Bar Associations.
It is Irving’s vision that the mentor attorneys use their interpersonal, listening and advocacy skills to help students with whatever issues they are facing, whether that be reviewing a resume, offering advice on interviewing, or discussing how to overcome obstacles.
“These students are the leaders of tomorrow and it’s important they have someone supporting them,” explains Irving. “It’s my hope this program will have a positive and lasting impact on the PNW community.”
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