Law & Society Professor Bobbi Gabrenya is as concerned about how her students learn as she is what they learn.
She doesn’t want them simply reciting back to her what they read in a book or a court opinion. How can they apply or connect what they read to other classes? Did it make them curious to learn more? Are they thinking differently about how they see the world?
If her students have this greater learning experience, Professor Gabrenya believes, they’re that much more likely to become successful lawyers, teachers, social workers, state troopers, researchers or whatever they choose to become after studying in the Law & Society program.
“They can do anything,” she says. “That’s what I’m encouraging them to see; that the skills they acquire in these classes prepare them for anything.”
But that’s just one thing that motivates Professor Gabrenya in her approach to teaching. She also wants students to see the value of an interdisciplinary degree. “I want to help students realize that many – probably most – of the issues in society today require interdisciplinary solutions. And this means bringing a combination of knowledge and skills to the issue. That’s what we’re teaching.”
Talk with Professor Gabrenya for a few minutes and you’ll get a sense of the kind of teacher she is. “I really enjoy interacting with students,” she says. “I still get excited about teaching. I love preparing for a class, and figuring out the best way to present the information in a way that students will relate to it. And if I can get students to laugh, it’s even better since laughter leads to learning!”
She also thinks it’s important that students are introduced to real world experiences that apply to what they’re learning in the classroom. She can quickly recite a selection of the places her students can work to fulfill their internship requirements: public defender offices, the New York State Assembly, various law enforcement agencies, the Child Advocacy Center, Unity House, several law firms, or Refugee and Immigrant Support Services.
Professor Gabrenya says many students decide to major in Law & Society without really knowing what they want their future career to be. She thinks that’s fine. In fact, she thinks they’ve come to just the right place. “We allow them to tinker,” she says. “We encourage them to experience and explore.”
And, while, she doesn’t come right out and say this, Professor Gabrenya suggests she prefers the opportunity to help a student discover where they truly want to go. It’s who she is. It’s what she does.