Wayne State Board of Governors approves new law degree for undergraduate students

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was originally published on Today@Wayne

DETROIT – Boasting one of the nation’s top law schools, Wayne State is now adding a bachelor’s in law for undergraduate students interested in the teachings from the field.

On Wednesday, the Wayne State University Board of Governors approved the recommendation made by the Academic Affairs Committee to establish a new bachelor of arts in law program. Beginning in fall 2023, the B.A. in law will be offered through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS). The program will be partnered with academic units from across the Midtown campus.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Mark Kornbluh told the committee that the B.A. in law is designed to be an intradisciplinary program that will provide students with a broad-based liberal arts degree.

“We started a minor in law three or four years ago and it’s grown to be one of the largest minors on the main campus,” Kornbluh said. “We see the student interest in this area, so I’m very excited that we’re proposing this.”

While the new program will be housed in CLAS, it has been developed in coordination with the Wayne State Law School, Kornbluh said. He hopes the new program appeals to students who have a curiosity about law, government, politics or criminal justice. Students who want to learn more about business, economics, history, philosophy or political science may also find an academic home with the new law major.

Though the degree will not enable students to take the state bar exam and practice law, it will pave the way to law-adjoining careers or prepare students for a juris doctor in the future.

“In many ways, it’s very similar to the public health degree that we added several years ago, which is now, I think, the second-most popular on campus,” Kornbluh said. “Some of those students go on to master’s in public health, but many will go on to wide-ranging careers. Similarly, the B.A. in law will help many students go into business and some of them will apply to law school. There are just an enormous number of areas in which these students will find this broad-based liberal arts degree useful.”

The B.A. in law will provide a strong foundation in law, critical thinking and writing, ethics, political and legal theory, and legal and justice systems that will make students competitive for innovative and emerging employment opportunities in a variety of fields and industries, including pursuing graduate studies in law school.

Moreover, this program will build on the distinctive training associated with the law school, combined with the expertise of Wayne State’s liberal arts programs to promote informed, well-rounded and civic-minded undergraduates prepared to be future leaders.

Wayne State is the nation’s latest institution to begin a law degree program for undergraduate students, joining the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law (2014), State University of New York at Buffalo Law School (2019) and the University of Southern California Gould School of Law (2022).

“Much of the world prefers undergraduate degrees in law,” Kornbluh said. “That’s not often the case in the United States. One university that I know that does this is the University of Arizona, where it has been very popular.”

Kornbluh said he hopes the new program is just as attractive at Wayne State.

“Currently, students who apply to law are taking that minor in law along with majors in political science, sociology and criminal justice,” he said. “Maybe some of the students will now take a major in law and a minor in political science or sociology.”

The proposal was approved by the faculty of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the faculty of the College of Law.

IN OTHER NEWS: The Board of Governors also approved the Academic Affairs Committee recommendation of a new bachelor of science in general engineering in the College of Engineering, effective in fall 2023.

The creation of the new engineering degree is necessary to meet a growing demand both domestically and internationally to produce graduates with skills in problem-solving and project management, as well as a strong grasp of physics, design systems and math.

The B.S. in general engineering program is an interdisciplinary, broadly focused major studying concepts related to several engineering disciplines. Such a degree program does not fit with any of the traditional engineering disciplines but will draw from them. This degree targets students who have already garnered basic knowledge in the field of engineering from a bachelor’s or associate degree and have also spent time in a professional environment.

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