Earning an MSL degree revolutionized alumnus’ teaching style
Brandon Wells, ’20, has one unequivocal piece of advice for those considering whether or not to pursue a Master of Science in Law (MSL) from the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law: “Do not hesitate.”
Four years ago, Wells found himself weighing his options to advance as an English and English Language Development teacher at Encina Preparatory High School in Sacramento, where he has worked since 2011.
A master’s degree meant that Wells would both move up on the pay scale and have more opportunities within the school district, including the chance to represent all of his fellow teachers on the San Juan Unified School District Teachers’ Association.
Wells became interested in McGeorge School of Law’s part-time MSL program at the suggestion of his friend, Dewight Kramer, ’19, who soon became his classmate.
“We were having breakfast one Saturday morning. As Dewight was telling me about this master’s in law program, I had a ‘stars-aligned’ feeling,” Wells said.
With support from faculty in the graduate program, including Director Jocelyn Blinn and Assistant Dean Clémence Kucera, Wells went from teaching in the classroom to also being a student in one.
“There is this sense many students experience, where it feels like someone else more suited than you for law school,” Wells reflected. “Yet, right away, I was in a really warm and friendly environment.”
Wells’ studies at McGeorge impacted the way he taught. In his classroom, Wells now starts his junior year English students off with a unit on legal analysis.
“Using evidence to support a claim is the most bare-bones version of legal analysis,” Wells explains. “It grabs the kids’ attention instantly when we discuss the California Education Code for suspension.”
Wells gives his students an assignment where they analyze whether bringing a bullet, absent a gun, meets the criteria for suspension for bringing a weapon to school.
“I have a lot of students who have moved schools, and they often have a broken relationship with adults in the education system,” Wells said. “Many of them have been suspended or expelled, and this gives them the chance to reflect on their own cases.”
During this unit, Wells empowers his students by covering student rights and the Fourth Amendment. To his delight, words like “consent” permeate into his students’ vocabulary.
Since earning his MSL, Wells has also excelled at leadership positions on campus and in the district. He became the English Department Chair, as well as the bargaining chair for the San Juan Unified School District Teachers’ Association.
“Doing the bargaining and labor negotiations with the union helps peers, and that feels really great,” Wells remarked.
While studying at McGeorge, Wells was interested in labor relations and attributes his success to courses like Labor Law, Mediation, and especially Contracts with Professor of Law Clark Kelso.
“Listening to Professor Kelso for a few semesters changed how I speak and present information,” Well said.
Professor Emeritus John Cary Sims’ Constitutional Law class revolutionized his perception of law and education.
“I had no idea how much educators are existing inside of a constitutional battleground all the time,” Wells said. “Teachers constantly just think of the classroom and pedagogy outside of politics, but politics can inform the pedagogy. This area is an unexplored goldmine for educators.”
Overall, Wells’ time at McGeorge allowed him to have a range of memorable academic experiences that he felt he missed out on during his undergraduate studies — from eating curly fries in the Student Center Café with peers, to walking across the stage at graduation and accepting the MSL Award of Excellence.
“For anyone who does not feel like they are done with school — maybe they have never felt like they got to because of economics or life events — McGeorge is a really good place to have that college experience as an adult,” Wells said.
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