Category Archives: Foreign Study

Finding Oneself on the Other Side of the World

The Northland region of New Zealand is full of legends and stories significant to Kiwi culture. Professor Kimberly O’Leary got to recently travel in the Northland region. She embraced the land – rich with beauty and meaning. Despite the possible difficulty to traverse the mountainous, hilly New Zealand terrain, she and her husband forged ahead to conquer Mount Manaia, located in the Whangerai Heads, like so many other travelers do each year.


The hike, consisting of over 1000 stairs, makes a short but steep trail through New Zealand bush, ferns, mangrove trees, and blooming flowers. The mountain is the remnants of a volcano that erupted 20 million years ago. At it’s top are five vertical stones that can be seen for miles around. Legend says that Chief Manaia, the Chief’s children, a rival Chief, and the rival Chief’s wife all turned to stone by the God of Thunder.


The hard climb was well worth the hardship and time.  Professor O’Leary and her husband were rewarded at the top with stunning view of the bays and the surrounding area. Travelers also enjoy the walk through the tropical bush,  replete with birdsong and the magnificent blooms of the Pahutakawa trees, often called by locals as the New Zealand Christmas tree due to its bedazzling red foliage during the holiday season.


The nearby Bay of Islands is considered the birthplace of New Zealand; home to Maori origin legends and the first Maori encounters with western sailors. Professor O’Leary ventured out by boat, traveling past the black rocks, nesting sea birds, beautiful islands, several pods of dolphins, and the famous Motu Kokako, also known as the “Hole in the Rock.” Motu Kokako represents strength through adversity after all it had endured to withstand the sea. The Urupukapuka Island water is so clear and translucent that you can see all the way to the bottom. All are treated to another stunning view of the bay, blooming pahutakawa, and jacaranda trees after a climb to the top.


The trip to Cape Reinga had a breathtaking view of 90 mile beach. The Cape is at the upper most tip of New Zealand, and the place where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. The Maori believe this spot is the place where souls leap into the afterlife. Along the Tasman Sea coast, unspoiled beach extends for dozens of miles. It is said that the beach is 90 nautical miles from the Cape to Dargaville, hence the name “90-mile beach.” You get to ride a special “dune bus” about 40 miles on the sand of this beach.


Also in the region is the largest known living kauri tree. Kauri trees existed along with dinosaurs, formerly growing all over the world. The only living kauri trees are now in New Zealand, with sub-species growing in Australia. These trees are known for growing very large – second only to giant redwoods. They were harvested aggressively in the 19th century, and are now protected. The largest living tree is called Tane Mahuta, which is a Maori name meaning “Lord of the Forest.”


Tane Mahuta is estimated to be between 1500 and 2000 years old. Ancient fossilized remains of these trees produces amber, and speculators came from all over the world in the 19th century to mine for amber. Tane Mahuta grows in the Waipoua forest – a protected forest of native trees and plants and a special place.

Finding herself in the midst of ferns, birds, mountain tracks, dolphins, volcanic formations, the meeting of oceans, unspoiled beach and towering ancient trees, Professor Kimberly O’Leary found her own center, clear on the other side of the world.20161218_112110

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WMU-Cooley Professor Travels to Teach and to Learn

Travel is an exciting and artistic expression of life-long learning, but, for me, it extends to giving back through teaching and sharing knowledge. Looking back on 2016, I was very fortunate to travel to New Zealand and Australia to direct and take part in teaching WMU-Cooley Law School’s Down Under Study Abroad program. I also got to travel to Toronto, Charlotte, N.C., and Alexandria, Virginia, and my home state of Michigan to participate in educational conferences. 

Beyond travel, I believe an educator should do these three things:

  1. Teach what they know to the public and lawyers, as well as to their students
  2. Learn best practices in their fields so they can teach best practices
  3. Connect with professionals to better educate their students

Conferences can be a great way to give back while learning. At the summer 2016 International Journal of Clinical Legal Education conference in Toronto, I got to present and meet up with my fellow Monash clinical professors I met during my time earlier that year in Australia. The conference, The Risks and Rewards of Clinical Legal Education Programs, allowed me to share what I have learned as a clinical professor, while learning from other clinical professors around the globe of their experiences.

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In the fall, I presented a paper, along with colleague Professor Mabel Martin-Scott and law school professor Joni Larson, at the Southern Clinical Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. The topic of our presentation was “Mapping the Learning Outcomes to the Law School Curriculum Using Case Progression.” We outlined how a law school can create learning outcomes based on a student’s ability to represent a client, rather than on more traditional academic goals.

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Later that fall, I presented an ethics topic to legal services lawyers in Michigan, along with co-presenter Alison Hirschel, director of the Michigan Elder Justice Initiative.  The two of us, along with Syracuse University School of Law faculty Mary Helen McNeal and Nina Kohn, then presented that same topic to lawyers at the National Aging and the Law conference in Alexandria, Virginia, outside Washington, D.C.  Our topic, “Three’s a Crowd: Representing Clients with Legal Representatives,” tackled a difficult ethics topic and gave elderlaw attorneys an opportunity to apply the information we provided to real-life scenarios.

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I am proud to say that all WMU-Cooley faculty are active scholars and educators, at the law school and in the community of lawyers and professionals.  

WMU-Cooley Law School Professor Kimberly E. O’Leary is back this year in New Zealand and Australia to direct law school’s Study Abroad program in New Zealand and Australia after teaching the program last year. The experience was unforgettable for all, and she will again share her students experiences Down Under in 2017!

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WMU-Cooley Students Witness British History

WMU-Cooley law students are spending part of their summer in Oxford, England. They are participating in a five-week study abroad program housed at Hertford College at the University of Oxford. The students are taking full advantage of this experience and have packed a lot into their days and weekends. They are engaged in stimulating classes taught by world class international law professors and learning about Britain.

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Here are some highlights:

1.  A trip to Middle Temple in London where students dined in the elegant building that has been a home to the British legal profession since the 14th Century.  Five signers of the Declaration of Independence were members.
2.  A trip to Bath to see the spa the Romans built in AD 60.
3.  Concerts at the centuries old Sheldonian Theater, Christ Church Chapel, and Exeter College Chapel, and a visit to the Museum of Natural History.
4.  Touring London on a double decker bus:  Students learned much from the locals as they helped to translate across the cultures.  Did you know adhesive bandages are called “plasters” in England?

5.  And being present for a moment in British history.  The immediate aftermath of Brexit and the election of Britain’s second female prime minister.  A lot has been learned by speaking with British citizens and listening to the BBC coverage.

WMU-Cooley has enjoyed its time in Great Britain and will remember these historic events.

vuletich_victoriaWMU-Cooley Law School Victoria Vuletich is directing the law school’s Study Abroad program in Toronto. She and her students are sharing their experiences throughout the 2016 summer semester.

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On Pirates, Ice Cream and Baseball!

Who says learning can’t be fun?  The students and faculty of the WMU Cooley Toronto Study Abroad program are busy proving that learning and fun are not mutually exclusive! Let’s talk pirates!  See the boat picture?  That was taken aboard an impressive three masted sailing ship while students joined Professor Victoria Vuletich for a sail around the gorgeous Toronto Harbor. Complete with pirate songs and the firing of a miniature cannon.

study abroad

There have also been a Blue Jays baseball game with Professor Murdoch Martyn and the Krinock Lecture and reception with the Hon. Justice Todd Archibald, who is teaching in the program.

Ice cream, you scream, we all scream for … ice cream!  One of our students is enjoying an almost-life-size ice cream cone. We were celebrating Victoria Day in Canada and no summer holiday is complete without ice cream, right?

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And we are only half way through the Toronto program – what will we learn and do in the next three weeks?!

vuletich_victoriaWMU-Cooley Law School Victoria Vuletich is directing the law school’s Study Abroad program in Toronto. She and her students are sharing their experiences throughout the 2016 summer semester.

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Professor Finds Joyous Crossroads in Toronto Study Abroad

vuletich_victoriaWMU-Cooley Law School Victoria Vuletich is directing the law school’s Study Abroad program in Toronto. She and her students are sharing their experiences throughout the 2016 summer semester.

As the students in the WMU-Cooley Study Abroad program get settled in at St. Michael’s College in Toronto (see the picture of the gorgeous grounds!) I was struck at the many joyous crossroads present. More than the obvious Canadian and American intersection, I marveled at our students sitting at the table with me at our dinners this week,  and the rich and diverse backgrounds they bring to the legal profession.

University of St. Michael's College

University of St. Michael’s College

Students participating in WMU-Cooley’s Toronto Study Abroad program ranged from close to campus to spanning the globe:

  •  A woman from Taiwan who speaks fluent Chinese and English, who travels all over the world for work which is based in Lansing, Michigan
  •  A young man whose family is from Pakistan and who will soon be joining the ranks of his father, brother and sister who are all lawyers in Canada
  • Our visiting student from Sioux City, Iowa, attending the University of Iowa law school, with a boyfriend from Ontario
  • A former competitive figure skater from Dearborn, Michigan
  • A woman from Scranton, Pennsylvania, who worked as a dealer at a casino for some time before coming to WMU-Cooley
  • A young woman who worked in claims at Walmart before to coming to law school and who knows firsthand the adage: “truth is stranger than fiction”

And that isn’t all of them! It hasn’t yet been a week and I have already come to enjoy their company – exploring museums, walking the city and discussing the law in our classes. I look forward to getting to know the others and making more memories in the weeks to come. The legal profession will surely be better for have intersected with their rich and varied backgrounds and experiences.

Oh yes, and they also taught me how to take a “selfie!”


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Australia Study Abroad Reaches New Heights and Sites

While studying in Melbourne as part of the WMU-Cooley Down Under Study Abroad program, students and faculty managed to find the time to travel outside of Melbourne to see all the wonderful sights this beautiful land had to offer. Australia is almost as large, geographically, as the United States, but has only about 6.5 percent of the number of people. Program participants were able to visit many beautiful places with vast, open, unsettled spaces of all sorts in between.

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The experience was spectacular and the Aussie destinations outside of Melbourne were amazing. If you ever get the opportunity to visit Australia, here are some places we recommend you visit:

  • The Great Ocean Road, with its cliff-top views of the Southern Ocean and the giant rock formations  known as the Twelve Apostles
  • Tasmania, full of mountains, oceans, beaches, rain forest, and history
  • Phillip Island, to see the little penguins on parade
  • The Great Barrier Reef, to dive and see the under-water wonders
  • Sydney, with its stunning sea-side sophistocated charms
  • The Grampian mountains, full of rugged bush walks, gorgeous views, Koori culture and kangaroos and wallabies in the wild
  • Adelaide, a beautiful old mining city on the ocean in the heart of the Barossa Valley wine region

You also must visit all the towns along the way, such as Mount Gambier, with its Victorian architecture, and the many vineyards you can find off the highway!

oleary_kimberlyWMU-Cooley Law School Professor Kimberly E. O’Leary is directing the law school’s foreign study program in New Zealand and Australia. She and her students are sharing their experiences throughout the Hilary 2016 semester.

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Study abroad students find that networking is not just local anymore.

In the WMU-Cooley Down Under Study Abroad program, law students spend lots of quality time with faculty. Director of the Program and WMU-Cooley Professor Kim O’Leary has come to know and appreciate program students and enjoys working with them. The students bring with them a love of travel and an inclination toward international law.

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During social visits, legal visits, informal gatherings and just in the break room around the law school, O’Leary and international faculty from the University of Waikato and Monash University exchange ideas with the students about careers, travel and life.

University staff share what it is like to live in Hamilton or Melbourne. O’Leary and her husband and daughter have hosted the students at their apartments in New Zealand and in Melbourne, providing home-cooked meals and relaxed conversation. International faculty — some recognized in world arenas — and Kiwi & Aussie lawyers have mixed with students in backyard barbeques around the pool and outings to the mountains and the beach.

Everywhere, students ask questions about the law in other cultures — what is legal practice like in NZ or Australia? What career paths are open in the international arena? Networking is not just local anymore!

WMU-Cooley Law School Professor Kimberly E. O’Leary is directing the law school’s foreign study program in New Zealand and Australia. She and her students are sharing their experiences throughout the Hilary 2016 semester.

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