McGeorge School of Law

McGeorge Inter-American Summer Program Grows in Fifth Year

August 30, 2013


Inter-American Summer Program participants enjoying a hike to the Pacaya Volcano in Antigua, Guatemala in May 2013.

The expansion of externship opportunities from Guatemala to Costa Rica, Uruguay and Chile highlights the fifth year of the innovative McGeorge Inter-American Summer Program.

McGeorge founded the program in 2009 and partnered with the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law in 2011 to offer the innovative Inter-American Summer Program, which is distinctive among U.S. law schools because of the emphasis on a true bilingual and cross-cultural learning experience. In 2013, Gonzaga University School of Law, in Spokane, Wash., became an affiliate of the program.

Study-abroad programs offered by most U.S. law schools, including those that take place in Latin America, only teach courses in English. By contrast, the Inter-American Program in Guatemala takes a bilingual and inter-cultural approach to legal education, offering substantive law classes about Latin America taught in Spanish as well as bilingual externship placements in four countries.

"I am committed to improving my students' cross-cultural sensibilities by engaging them in meaningful learning opportunities that are bilingual and by exposing them to real issues affecting the Americas and Latinos in the U.S.," said Raquel Aldana, professor of law and director of the McGeorge Inter-American Program.

This program is part of a broader effort at McGeorge to prepare students to address the needs of clients from Latin America, a growing demographic in the U.S. The Fourth Annual Citizenship Fair, to be held on Saturday, Nov. 16, is another effort where law students help hundreds of would-be citizens.

The classroom component had 21 students from five different ABA law schools, as well as six students from Latin America — including three public defenders from Guatemala and a prosecutor from Chile. Aldana coordinated the course on Comparative Law Perspectives taught in Spanish by three renown Guatemalan lawyers and co-taught with Luis Mollogón a course on Legal Spanish for U.S. Lawyers. Professor Emily Garcia Uhrig taught the course Comparative Criminal Procedure in the Americas in English while Prof. José R. Juárez from Denver taught a course in Spanish on Commercial Law for Foreign Investors. The flexible curriculum permitted students with basic to advanced levels of Spanish to design a program that fit their educational goals.

Mollogón, who has worked closely with McGeorge in developing all aspects of the summer program, has created wonderful opportunities for students with important Latin American legal institutions through his talents and connections. The program seeks to grow into other nations of Latin America in the near future.

Eight students completed externships in Guatemala, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Chile. Whitney Clark, a first-year student at McGeorge, finished a very impressive comparative study on the treatment of persons with mental illnesses in the criminal justice systems of various countries for the Chilean Public Defenders office.

Other law students completed externships at the Central American Institute on Social Sciences and Development (INCEDES), the Supreme Court of Costa Rica, a top law firm in Uruguay and the Attorney General's Office of Chile.

"I feel very proud of each of the students who finished an externship placement during the program for doing very solid work in Spanish," said Aldana.