Law and Society at University of Calgary
Anonymous (Graduate Studies — Law Student at University of Windsor)
What did you wish you knew before going to your university? What made you choose this institution over all others? What are advantages and disadvantages of your institution or campus? List any advice for incoming first-year students about your university.
I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Calgary in Law and Society from 2014-2018. I chose UofC because it allowed me to continue living at home in order to better manage my expenses as I was solely responsible for tuition and other educational costs. Additionally, UofC is one of only a handful of schools that offer Law and Society and I was very motivated to take the program as I wanted to apply to law school. After going through the law school application process, I commented on my law school studies at the University of Windsor based on my acceptance offers and Windsor’s focus on access to justice as this is something I am very passionate about. The advantages of UofC is that it was located in my home city and that the program allowed me a great deal of flexibility to choose courses that were most interesting to me outside of the required Law and Society courses. The disadvantages of UofC is that the student life and culture was very poor, I felt particularly isolated in the Faculty of Arts because it is so large and my program is relatively small. Further, accessing support at UofC, such as financial ones was overly complicated. I only found a sense of community when joining and later on leading the Pre-Law Society, but I wish I had been told about it sooner in my undergraduate studies. I recall that my orientation at UofC in 2014 was very poorly attended for the Faculty of Arts and this did not set a very good tone for the start of my degree, I wish more thought and time went into planning to ensure students were engaged and motivated to attend. That being said, I have nothing but positive things to say about the law and society program and my experience taking political science courses, they have shaped my academic skills and helped me find my potential in law. As for the University of Windsor, the administration is very poorly managed. I am particularly disturbed by the lack of transparency and planning as no news has been given on how classes will be delivered in the Winter semester. Additionally, I found that the university is charging students over $100 for the recreational facilities that we will have no access to, and we are not able to opt out. On the other hand, the law school administration I can only speak positively of — they have been a tremendous resource of support, are very effective at engaging students and have built a very positive culture of community. The academics in Law have also been outstanding, it has especially been an honour being taught by renowned academics such as David Tanovich and working for a member of the Order of Canada, Dr. Julie Macfarlane.
What did you wish you knew before choosing your specific program? What are the advantages and disadvantages of your program? List any advice for incoming first-year students about your program of study.
I believe that the academic advisors at UofC need to be more actively involved in helping students navigate their degree requirements. Frankly, I never relied on their support but I was confident in my own planning skills and succeeded in meeting my degree requirements on my own. I would advise students to carefully assess their own skills and what optional courses that meet degree requirements are best for you, when you have the option. For example, my skills were better suited for Political Science over Sociology, so this impacted how I chose optional courses, an extra perk was the scaling grade in Political Science which I took advantage of as my GPA was critical to my law school acceptance.
What was your favourite university experience?
Conducting my own research in the honours program was less onerous than I thought and very productive to have on my resume. Another bonus was that my supervisor was a law school professor so she gave me extra guidance on my applications.
What was your least favourite university experience?
The poorly planned and attended orientation. In addition to that, I would say that the Philosophy department has a lot of room for growth, especially for female students. It shouldn’t be the case that I only feel comfortable and valued as an active participant if the professor is female and if I am in a feminist course.
What is the hardest part about your program and what were the steps that you took to overcome any difficulties?
I believe that studying for heavily weighted exams was difficult as I had to overcome exam anxiety. I overcame this by leaning on my friends for support and printing out my preparation materials as a visual aid when studying. I also felt that having the motivation and time to write lengthy papers was difficult, especially as someone who had no choice but to work part time hours and volunteer. My advice is to get papers done ahead of time and submit them to your TA’s when given the opportunity or sitting down with your professor ahead of time to discuss your ideas, this ALWAYS resulted in a higher mark.
If you were able to take electives, what was your favourite elective? If you were not able to take electives, what was your favourite course and why?
My favourite course at UofC was POLI 343! It was the most relevant and transferable to law school so I was really excited about the course material and being assigned case law. Also, Dr. Maureen Hiebert was one of the best Professor’s I’ve ever had to this day, and I find her research expertise fascinating and moving. My second favourite course at UofC was Social Movement Theory with Dr. Roberta Rice. I would urge anyone in Political Science to take a course with her. She is not only brilliant but is the rare professor that takes her pedagogy very seriously and breaks her lectures down in such a straightforward way. She was by far the most effective educator I’ve ever encountered and to boot she is incredibly approachable and kind to her students which leads to excellent class discussion!