McGeorge School of Law

McGeorge Students Study and Work in Summer Inter-American Program

August 5, 2016

Michael, Greene, Okeke and Boucher

A group of participants in the Inter-American Summer Program from left: Tamy Ayapán, a Guatemalan Lawyer; Joseph Kowalski, student from McGeorge; Moisés Urrutia, student from University of San Carlos, Guatemala; Elaine Nolen, student from Denver; and Melody Aguilar, student from McGeorge. The picture was taken at Iximche, a pre-Colombian archeological site in the westerns highlands of Guatemala.

The Inter-American Summer Program in Antigua, Guatemala, hosted by McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific, with its partner University of Denver, Sturm College of Law, and affiliate Gonzaga University School of Law, in Spokane, Washington, completed its eighth year, holding courses from May 26 to June 17, 2016, with students from six U.S. law schools and five Latin American Law schools. Three McGeorge students remained in Costa Rica at the Supreme Court completing Externships: Ana Gonzalez, Emanuel Avila-Martin and Vilma Casanova, from June 20 to Aug. 7.

Highlights this summer included hiking the Pacaya Volcano; playing a soccer match with a group of Mayan girls and boys in el Tablón, Sololá; and, visiting the chambers of Judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez who is handling the most important corruption cases in the history of Guatemala.

Three courses were offered this summer in the program. Professor Raquel Aldana, McGeorge School of Law, taught "The Central American Migration Corridor," in Spanish. Professor José Roberto (Beto) Juárez Jr., University of Denver, Sturm College of Law, and Adjunct Professor Luis Mogollón, McGeorge School of Law, taught "Lawyering Across Borders." Professor Annecoos Wiersema, University of Denver, Sturm College of Law, taught "Environmental Protection and International Law in Latin America."

Student Experiences

"One of the best parts of the program was having Guatemalan classmates. Getting to know them gave an invaluable insiders look at the country instead of us all just being a group of foreign students. We got to see a side of the country we likely wouldn't have access to otherwise. Another great part of the program was how many simulations we had. In the Lawyering Across Border class, we had to interview the professor, in Spanish, as if they were a real life client. This taught me in a way that simply reading about laws never could. In the international environmental law class we had simulations of tribunals and consultations. The experiential learning was very effective. I really appreciated the opportunity to visit the Tzutujil Maya village in Santiago Atitlan. We learned a lot about Indigenous peoples rights in the environmental law class, so being able to actually visit a Native community provided real life insight that a textbook never could." — McGeorge student Joseph Kowalski, '18

"The program was a truly amazing and unforgettable experience. The ability to learn about new immigration patterns within Guatemala as a law student was eye-opening and humbling at the same time. As a Latina student, I sincerely value being in such a beautiful country with amazing culture while still being critical of the legal, systematic, and political flaws. This program was extremely valuable for me because it helped me get a better sense of the legal field I would like to pursue and taught me very valuable skills for the international field. The client interview simulation aspect of the course has made me more culturally competent and sensitive which is a vital skill to be respectful towards clients in any legal field. The professors are extremely knowledgeable and passionate about this program and the courses they teach and their experiences in the field are very valuable." — McGeorge student Melody Aguilar, '18

About the McGeorge Inter-American Program

McGeorge School of Law founded the Inter-American 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 and the students are from American law schools. 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 to American and Guatemalan students. There is also an English-language class and an experiential course that focuses on interviewing and counseling. Students with a lower level of Spanish take language classes with their own tutor to improve their proficiency during the program.