Mackenzie A. Dilbeck
NORMAN — On Sept. 26, the University of Oklahoma College of Law hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony dedicating the new Inasmuch Foundation Collaborative Learning Center, housed in the school’s law library. The cutting-edge space is named in recognition of Inasmuch Foundation’s generous $1.5 million gift to create the center.
“Because of Inasmuch Foundation’s generosity, we now have this 21st century space that serves as a critical element of our Digital Initiative,” said OU College of Law Dean Joseph Harroz Jr. “In 2014 we became the first law school in the nation to launch a college-wide initiative focused on equipping our students for success in the digital age. We began with the common platform of an iPad, given to each of our students at no cost, and built a comprehensive training curriculum around its use. Now, we have a physical space that builds upon our Digital Initiative’s success, devoted to using technology as a way to connect students to one another and prepare them to positively impact the people and societies they will one day serve.”
Located in the main entrance to the college’s Donald E. Pray Law Library, the center represents a transformation from traditional legal research and study to 21st century skills development and collaboration. The space features two virtual reality stations; four new multimedia study rooms; a flipped seminar classroom; a fully-equipped computer lab with dual-monitor stations; moveable whiteboard desks and stands; Brody WorkLounges; a “genius station” for research support; a café; and cooperative learning spaces for student collaboration.
With an earlier gift to the OU College of Law in 2008, Inasmuch Foundation provided critical funding for four multimedia study rooms in the law library. Warmly received by law students and faculty, these rooms are utilized for a myriad of purposes, including small-group classes, moot court competitions, group study sessions, collaborative staff meetings, employer interviews and video-conferencing. The four rooms logged nearly 4,000 uses by the student body in one academic year.
The study rooms’ success and the well-received Digital Initiative launched in 2014, the first such initiative by a law school in the country, demonstrate the OU College of Law’s leadership in legal education in the digital age. The Inasmuch Foundation Collaborative Learning Center represents the next decisive step in ensuring students have the technology, facilities and training necessary to become technologically-proficient legal professionals.
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What led you to OU Law? I have wanted to go to law school since I was a teenager. I was active in speech contests and enjoyed making oral presentations. When I was in high school, I would go downtown and watch some of the trials at the courthouse, so, I got acquainted with the courtroom rather early. I obtained a Navy scholarship to go to OU. I was a regular Navy midshipman then I served three years in the far east before coming back to law school. I wanted to attend law school and came back to OU.
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What led you to OU Law? OU Law has been part of my family since the 1920s. My great uncle was Dr. Maurice Merrill, a 1922 graduate of OU Law who then earned a Doctorate in Law from Harvard University in 1925. Merrill taught at OU Law for 30 years, published numerous seminal works in oil and gas law, constitutional law, administrative law and the law of Notice. While still in his twenties, Merrill published the seminal treatise Implied Covenants in Oil and Gas Law, which has been a cornerstone of my cases. In law school, I lived with Uncle Maurice and marveled at his longhand scrawl which was literally final copy in its first draft form. In my mind, he will always be ten times the lawyer that I ever became.