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Released on Jan 22, 2024
Monday Morning Message 1.22.24

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou

“I cannot believe the transformation I see in myself. I started out as an intimidated insecure caterpillar and it’s because of outstanding professors like you that I have transformed into a confident unstoppable butterfly.” - 2022 Graduate to Professor Heidi Robertson

As we begin the Spring 2024 semester and a new year, my message this morning is to our students, especially our first year students whose first semester grades were disappointing.

Grades are pieces of information, not a judgement of who you are as a person. You get to decide how to use that information. Your grades don’t define you. You define you. This is a moment to reflect, reset, and reboot.

If you did well –congratulations - but don’t be overconfident and don’t be satisfied.

If you did not do as well as you had hoped, you should be disappointed - but you should not be discouraged. There’s a big difference between disappointment and discouragement.

This is the beginning of the second half. As we see every week in sports, lots can change after halftime. The best teams, the best players, and the best students reflect, reset, and reboot after a disappointing first half.

Now is the time to examine what worked and what didn’t and adjust accordingly. As Steve Jobs once said, If you define the problem correctly, you almost have the solution.”

“I did not do as well as I should have in my first semester and Nick had me turned around and feeling positive about the direction I was heading in.” -2022 Graduate to Dean Fisher about Nick De Santis, Assistant Dean for Student Success

In the rush of our daily lives, we leave little or no time for self-exploration and self-assessment. Too often, we live in self-denial and self-deception. Authentic leaders know what they don’t know and have the courage and honesty to pursue continuous self-improvement. When you do, you become more vulnerable, but you also become more human.

Despite receiving the disappointing grades of first semester…I will be graduating this spring, Magna Cum Laude. If it was not for your confidence in me and the conversations we had after the first semester, I would not have found the confidence in myself to achieve this goal.…” – 2021 Graduate to Professor Emeritus Michael Borden

Invest in yourself. Especially invest in believing in yourself even if that belief feels difficult or forced at the moment.

Your ability to understand your strengths and weaknesses, to learn from your mistakes, setbacks, and failures, and to adapt, change, and improve, will determine not only how well you do this semester; it will determine how well you do in life.

There are times in every lawyer’s life when despite their efforts, they will come up short.  For example, a lawyer may provide sound and accurate advice to a client only to have the client ignore it.  They may write the perfect motion only to have the court deny it. They may present the best case at trial only for the jury to enter a verdict for their opponent. 

Law school is no different. So, as you receive and process your grades from the Fall 2023 semester, remember to keep perspective. There is no question that grades are an important external measure of success and digging out from a low GPA takes work, grit, determination, and self-awareness.

The true measure of success is progress.  Did you end the day, week, or semester better than you started?  Did you do all you could reasonably do to learn and grow and achieve your personal goals? 

“I was a non-traditional student and I nearly dropped out after my first semester …I felt over my head.  But I did not quit, and I hope the law school is proud to have me as a part of the alum family.” - 2018 Graduate

As you take stock of your performance last semester, remember that you are not alone. Take advantage of the wisdom and experience of our faculty and staff who have dedicated their lives to helping you succeed. Take advantage of the wisdom and experience of your alumni mentor who is paying it back.

Take advantage of the wisdom and dedication of our Student and Career Services team of Assistant Dean for Student and Career Services Sarah Beznoska, Jaime Gay, and Anne Wells. Take advantage of the wisdom and dedication of our Academic Support team, Nick De Santis, Assistant Dean for Student Success, Jenna Hosier, Director of Bar Preparation,  Michelle Landever Bond, and Bobby Stevenson who are available to help you craft and implement a study plan. Please also take advantage of the support of each other - your friends and colleagues for life.

You now know better, so do better.

Have a great day and a great week.

The views and opinions expressed in my Monday Morning Message are solely my own and do not reflect the views and opinions of the law school or the university. 

For copies of past messages, please go to this link: Monday Morning Messages

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My best,


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