By Marcela Suter and Richard Goldstein
It’s not always easy to visualize impact and influence. But the University of Florida Levin College of Law faculty’s global reach is traced by the pins crisscrossing a map under construction inside the office of Sharon E. Rush, associate dean for faculty development.
The Global Impact Map provides a visual description of the impact and influence of UF Law faculty around the world. Rush created the map to identify the places where law faculty have engaged in research, scholarship, teaching and service.
The map dates back to 2010 and marks about 40 states, including the District of Columbia, and more than 50 countries. There are more than 260 instances of influence and impact in the United States alone and more than 160 abroad.
Rush has participated in international conferences to present her work in the area of equality and education in Athens and Rome. She has also taught at the University of Cape Town in South Africa and at Montpellier University in France, both of which are studyabroad partners with UF Law.
“My international travel, especially my visits to South Africa, have informed and enriched my scholarship in ways I never would have imagined,” Rush said. “My extended and repeated visits to South Africa have given me invaluable firsthand insights into just how central the concept of dignity is to the everyday lives of South Africans.”
UF Law Professor Dennis A. Calfee is a member of UF Law’s No. 1-rated public school tax faculty, including the International Graduate Tax LL.M. Program, which has attracted students from more than 20 countries.
In 2006, Calfee was awarded one of Taiwan’s most prestigious honors, the Public Finance Specialty Medal, for decades of help in the development of public finance in the Republic of China and training local tax officers in international tax law.
Hundreds of the country’s local and foreign finance officials have attended Calfee’s classes in the International Training Program of the Ministry of Finance, and many of his former students have risen to key positions in government.
UF Law faculty influence extends to mainland China. Last spring, Professor D. Daniel Sokol helped organize a conference on Competition and the Role of the State at the University of Hong Kong and co-edited a book on the same topic. Over the summer, he trained the Supreme People’s Court on antitrust law. Meanwhile, Sokol is surveying the way merger decisions are made by Chinese government regulators.
Under an exchange with the Central University of Finance and Economics in Beijing set up by UF Law Professor Stuart Cohn, the first Chinese law professor taught at the College of Law in the fall of 2011.
One of the pins in the faculty map marks Ecuador, indicating the work of Professors Yariv Brauner, a tax law professor, and Winston Nagan, who specializes in human rights.
“I served as the abogado defensor (defense attorney) of the Shuar Nation in the Ecuadorian Amazon,” explained Nagan, Samuel T. Dell Research Scholar. “I was advising them on their strategies in terms of protecting their economic resources and civil and political rights.”
Nagan, who is director of the UF Law Institute of Human Rights and Peace Development, has helped this indigenous nation claim legal rights to their land.
“I tried clarifying this by developing a petition, which is currently before the Inter- American Commission on Human Rights, which seeks to clarify and provide the legitimately good title of the land they occupy to the Shuar themselves,” he said.
Faculty with international experience boost the prestige of the law school, but the experience also translates into greater scholarly and pedagogical depth, said Michael Seigel, the Samuel T. Dell Term Professor of Law.
“As academics our job is to broaden our horizons,” Seigel said. “The more you broaden your horizons the better scholar and teacher you are going to be. You have more data. You have more information. You have a bigger perspective on whatever topic you are teaching or writing about at UF.”
By way of example, Seigel cited a longsettled feature of U.S. law – that a corporation can be liable for criminal activity. France only made corporations criminally liable within the past decade.
“Going to France made me realize that this actually is a fairly controversial topic. That (knowledge), I think, is very helpful to discuss it at a deeper level,” Seigel said. “Teaching abroad influences how I teach at UF. It has influenced the way I teach white collar crime.”
Another of UF Law’s French connections is Associate Dean for Legal Information and Law Professor Claire M. Germain. A native Parisian who came to UF Law after 18 years at Cornell, Germain holds the Chevalier de La Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest honor, thanks to her work bridging French and American legal cultures.
UF Law Professor Berta Esperanza Hernández-Truyol, who has taught and researched in Argentina, Uruguay, Nicaragua, Italy and Spain, views global influence and impact as an important aspect of teaching, writing, and speaking because it requires understanding of culture, different legal systems, multiple perspectives and diverse methodologies.
Hernández-Truyol has come across many such instances.
“As teachers we learn and share knowledge that progressively develops, expands and transforms meanings and understandings of law,” she said.
Hernández-Truyol teaches courses such as international law and human rights. She learns through exposure to new viewpoints.
“Teaching and presenting in other places is both a learning experience and a teaching experience because different cultural frameworks have different lenses through which they preserve things,” Hernández-Truyol said.
Pedro Malavet, director of the LL.M. in Comparative Law Program and affiliate professor of Latin American studies, suggested that international scholarship improves the law school’s reputation, which in turn improves its performance in national rankings and attracts better students.
“It also improves our influence as scholars. We do not only have a U.S. audience for our scholarship and for our classes, but we have an international audience as well,” Malavet said. “Often our international audience is comprised of people who are already professionals, which means we have real policy impact.”
The LL.M. in Comparative Law Program is designed for students who have received law degrees in countries other than the U.S. They learn about American legal culture and they position themselves to provide service to American clients and to effect of UF Law’s international reach.cooperate with American lawyers.
“It is not just about speaking English, it’s really about understanding each other’s legal system and legal culture,” Malavet explained.
There is yet another practical effect of UF Law’s international reach.
Since its inception in 1994, the LL.M. in Comparative Law Program has enrolled students from 43 countries, providing students and graduates with professional connections worldwide.
“It is a potential source of clients and jobs for our J.D. students. It exposes them to people from other countries and cultures and gives them a better understanding of other legal systems,” Malavet said.
Summer is globetrotting time for UF Law
Each summer, UF Law faculty and students scatter to disparate corners of the globe where they engage scholars and legal problems abroad to enrich their law school back home in Gainesville.
The Costa Rica Program, for example, immerses students and faculty in the environmental and legal milieu of one of Central America’s lushest landscapes. Tom Ankersen (JD 86), program director and UF Law professor, notes that UF Law students are joined by Ph.D. students, law students from throughout the United States, and students from Costa Rica and elsewhere in Latin America. Ankersen brings the applied research that he conducts in Costa Rica to bear for students during the five-week, six-credit hour program.
“From an academic standpoint, it’s very serious,” Ankersen added, while also noting the exploration of rainforests, cloud forests and rolling rivers that go along with the visit. “It’s also about (gaining) a broad perspective on the world’s legal systems in a country renown for environmental policy experimentation.”
The Paris-Montpellier study abroad program provides up to six law school credits while offering participants the beauty, history and culture of France.
A French professor explores the impact of the European Union on business formation and legal issues. The other two courses, taught by UF Law professors, deal with business or economic-related subjects. All classes are in English and include French students from the University of Montpellier.
Surrounded by mountains and bordered by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, the breathtaking city of Cape Town is home to UF’s South Africa Study Abroad Program with the University of Cape Town. The program is the only one approved by the American Bar Association with the University of Cape Town. The university is ranked No. 1 in Africa, according to The Times Higher Education World University Ranking.
During the five-week program, students from UF Law and countries throughout Africa study comparative and international law in three two-credit courses taught by UF and UCT faculty. Students visit historic sites to learn about apartheid, how it ended and how the new South African constitution is transforming the country by protecting equality, dignity and the freedom of all South Africans. Students consistently relate that the program enriched their legal education beyond expectations.
Another example of UF Law’s international outreach each summer is the Law & Policy in the Americas Program. Sponsored by the Center for Governmental Responsibility, the program bridges geographical boundaries and often-conflicting bodies of law to foster connections between legal scholars and lawyers in the United States and those in Latin America. The Law & Policy in the Americas Conference is led by CGR Director and Dean Emeritus Jon Mills and alternates between Gainesville and a Latin American country. The host locations have included Buenos Aires, Argentina; San Jose, Costa Rica; Lima, Peru; Montevideo, Uruguay; as well as Rio de Janeiro and Curitiba, Brazil.