Top Ten Things Law Students Should Know About Western Michigan University

miller_nelsonBlog author Nelson Miller is the Associate Dean and Professor at WMU-Cooley’s Grand Rapids campus. He practiced civil litigation for 16 years before joining the WMU-Cooley faculty. He has argued cases before the Michigan Supreme Court, Michigan Court of Appeals, and United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and filed amicus and party briefs in the United States Supreme Court. He has has many published books, casebooks, book chapters, book reviews, and articles on legal education, law practice, torts, civil procedure, professional responsibility, damages, international law, constitutional law, university law, bioethics, and law history and philosophy. He also is now teaching law classes on the Kalamazoo, Michigan campus of Western Michigan University.

1. Now that the law school is holding elective courses on WMU’s Kalamazoo campus, where are the law classes? For now, Western Michigan University is sharing with the law school Room 1412 in its Health & Human Services (HHS) Building on WMU’s East Campus off Oakland Drive, behind (south of) the football stadium and sports complex on Stadium Drive. The HHS Building location makes sense in that the law school already has a dual JD/MSW degree program with the College of Health & Human Services’ School of Social Work. The HHS Building is a spectacular, first-class facility with wonderful natural-light design, a cafeteria, lots of relaxed seating, and convenient parking. Room 1412 is a team-based learning room with cart-available distance-education technology.

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2. What is the medieval-looking bell-tower-like structure next to WMU’s HHS Building where the law school holds classes? The HHS Building is next door to the Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital. Its tower is not, as rumored, to restrain the insane, but for the better part of a century supplied the hospital’s water. At one point in the tower’s storied history, its water saved Kalamazoo from burning when the city’s own water system failed as firefighters attempted to douse a severe downtown fire. Although the water tower is a historic landmark, locals not too long ago made an effort to have it razed, relenting only when private funds donated for maintenance exceeded the six-figure cost of its razing.

3. What is the heart of WMU’s Kalamazoo campus? Where does everyone go? Bernhard Center, located roughly in the middle of WMU’s Main Campus, houses the bookstore, Bronco Mall, cafeteria and food court, financial-aid office and other student services, student-organization offices, and large conference spaces. While the building’s exterior is a little older, WMU has renovated many of its interior spaces, making it both very comfortable and also a showcase.

4. Where should one park on campus? Depends on where you’re going. The best practice is to order a $5 daily visitor pass online before you go, then use the WMU Interactive Campus Map, choosing the Parking Lots option from the Layers link in the Map’s upper right. The $5 daily visitor parking pass grants you access to the R Lots where both visitors and WMU employees park. Commonly used R Lots are (1) on the west side of the Main Campus by Schneider Hall for convenient access to the business school or a short walk to the center of Main Campus, (2) at the south side of the Main Campus by Miller Auditorium for convenient access to the College of Arts & Sciences, and (3) alongside the Health & Human Services Building on East Campus. For a single short-term visit, you may choose instead to park at a visitor meter, although you’ll need lots of quarters (the cost is a quarter for every 12 minutes or so). Metered parking can also be paid by a cell phone through Parkmobile.com. Instructions are listed on each campus meter.Here is the parking map, with the R Lots in yellow:

5. Where can you eat on campus? Lots of places. While the Bernhard Center has the well-developed food court with national fast-food chains, a Biggby coffee shop, traditional cafeteria, and lots of comfortable seating, several other buildings also have public cafeterias including the HHS Building housing the law classes, Schneider Hall housing the Haworth College of Business, and Sangren Hall housing WMU’s large College of Education. The Plaza Cafe, located on the Fine Arts Plaza in front of Miller Auditorium, is also open to the public. To locate food on campus–Go to the WMU Housing and Dining map to get the precise locations of the buildings with cafeterias.

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6. Who are WMU’s most-distinguished alumni? Tim Allen, anyone? The popular film and television actor is on its Distinguished Alumni wall in the Bernhard Center (see the wall on the second floor for a great way to get to know WMU’s national leadership). WMU’s most-recent distinguished alumni awardee is former U.S. Attorney and WMU-Cooley adjunct James Brady, whom the law school honored recently with the Marion Hilligan Public Service Award. (The other 2015 awardee was the CEO of the world’s largest tire and wheel retailer.) Other lawyer/judge WMU distinguished alumni include former ABA President Dennis Archer, Sixth Circuit Judge Richard Griffin (son of Senator Robert Griffin), Richard Whitmer, former State Bar of Michigan President Nancy Diehl, and of course WMU-Cooley graduate and board member Ken Miller. Other distinguished alumni include former Detroit Tigers owner John Fetzer and former Tigers and Marlins and present Red Sox general manager Dave Dombrowski.

7. Tell me about the WMU library and its resources. With more that 4.5 million items, including thousands of electronic subscriptions, the libraries provide access to a wide variety of materials in support of its many educational programs. Over twenty reference librarians, many with subject specialties, are ready to assist students with their information and research needs. The library has recently initiated an experimental telepresence robot to aid in research interactions between students and librarians. Four floors of newly renovated state of the art facilities provide comfortable spaces for collaboration, research, and study.

8. What’s your favorite location on campus? Whether or not you have business there, consider visiting Sangren Hall in the center of WMU’s Main Campus. One of President Dunn’s many initiatives has been the improvement of WMU’s physical facilities. Sangren Hall, home to WMU’s oldest college–the College of Education–is the spectacular centerpiece of that initiative.Sangren-Hall-SHW-Group-6

It has every feature of a next-generation higher-education facility including state-of-the-art team-based-learning classrooms with distance-education technology and wide, spacious, and well-lit public areas with abundant comfortable seating and study areas, not to mention a great-looking library and convenient cafe. It even rivals the spectacular new WMed facility downtown (WMed built with substantial private and corporate contributions). WMU has constructed several other large, inviting, and very attractive facilities that make you feel very much a part of the latest and best in higher education.

9. For what does the public know WMU? What distinguishes it? WMU was initially a teacher’s college, and its College of Education remains its largest program. That history and emphasis may have influenced its mission and vision as a learner-centered university combining clinical education with research focus. Students matter, but so does research and expertise. Many of WMU’s Ph.D.-level faculty are recognized national and international experts in their fields with heavy demands for their expertise. WMU is also diverse, recruiting heavily from Southeast Michigan and other urban areas. It has had a global reach for decades, with faculty from around the globe and international students from 100 other nations.  A Carnegie-designated national research university, WMU is in the U.S. News top tier of public research universities. Many also know WMU for programs as diverse as its nation-leading aviation program and its internationally recognized offerings in creative writing, medieval studies, behavior analysis, blindness and low vision studies, integrated supply chain management and jazz studies. WMU also has a decades-long reputation for a commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship that won it the U.S. Building Council’s award in 2014 as the best green higher-education school in the country.

10. Okay, but how’s the football team doing? Great. WMU has a Division I (top division) football program competing with the best collegiate programs in the nation, including playing both MSU and Ohio State in 2015. WMU is in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) with in-state rivals Central Michigan University and Eastern Michigan University, and out-of-state schools like Toledo, Northern Illinois, and Bowling Green.

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While WMU has long been known more for its hockey team than for football success, WMU’s football teams have been to bowl games the past two years, winning the Bahamas Bowl just this year, and has had the MAC’s top-rated recruiting class the past three years. WMU’s football program is thus gaining national attention, as is its sought-after Coach P.J. Fleck. The program has a state-of-the-art indoor practice facility and a football hall-of-fame building, both adjacent to the stadium with a large indoor president’s box seating 100. Apologies to WMU-Cooley Board Chair Larry Nolan, a WMU hockey-program veteran, for not touting WMU’s outstanding hockey team, which is part of the toughest hockey league in the nation–the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. See WMU’s sports Hall of Fame for WMU’s long list of stellar college and professional athletes.

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