Note: Today’s message is being sent Tuesday morning because yesterday was Martin Luther King Day, a federal holiday.
“I just wanted to take a minute and thank you for all the support you have provided me this year. It was your words and encouragement that motivated me to continue this rigorous process despite the struggles of balancing home responsibilities, school, and 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 email to Professor Michael Borden
“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.” -3L Student email to Dean Fisher about Nick De Santis, Director of Academic Support
“I look forward to my final year of law school and 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.” - 3L Student email to Professor Heidi Robertson
“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 C|M|LAW is proud to have me as a part of the alum family.” - 2018 Graduate
This morning’s message is to those students whose first semester grades were disappointing.
This is a moment to reflect, re-evaluate, reset, and reboot. If you did well, 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.
This is halftime. As we see every week in sports, lots can change in the second half.
Now is the time to examine what worked and what didn’t and adjust accordingly. 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. As Steve Jobs once said, “If you define the problem correctly, you almost have the solution.”
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.
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 Fall 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.
But remember, 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?
As you take stock of your performance last semester, I urge you to take advantage of the wisdom and experience of our Career Services team of Assistant Dean Sarah Beznoska, Jaime Gay, and Anne Wells.
Please also take advantage of our skilled and dedicated Academic Support team, Nick De Santis, Director of Academic Support, Michelle Landever Bond, and Bobby Stevenson who are available to help you craft and implement a study plan that takes into account your strengths and weaknesses as a learner.
In addition to meetings with our professional academic support staff, please take advantage of our peer student tutors, as well as our talented student Academic Support Coaches - 3L students Tayler Gill, Lydia Fawzy, Nathan Hill, and Lucy Richman.
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.
As Maya Angelou wrote, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay Committed to Living Justice.
Have a great day. Have a great week.
For copies of past messages, please go to this link: Monday Morning Messages.
Dean, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law | Cleveland State University
Joseph C. Hostetler-BakerHostetler Chair in Law