Harvard increases joint degree programs


Students eager to step outside the HLS box are increasingly turning to the Kennedy School (above) and other joint degree programs. Photo/Tammy Pettinato

Harvard Law School is expanding and formalizing its joint-degree programs, building upon its thirty-year success with the JD/MBA program between the Law School and the Harvard Business School, as well as enhancing its international focus through study abroad programs. Students can now formally complete concurrent degrees at the Law School and the Kennedy School or the School of Public Health. Additionally, the dean’s office is working to expand these programs to include the Graduate School of Design and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

The most recent proposal to allow students to attain a JD and a PhD was approved by the faculty in May 2003. The government department is so far the only department to formally approve the program, though nothing is officially in writing. The Law School is still waiting for an answer from the economics, history and philosophy departments.

The government program, according to the dean’s office, is less structured than the other joint-degree programs. Enrolled students would complete the 1L curriculum and three upper-level semesters at the Law School in addition to their GSAS coursework and their PhD. Students would be required to attend and pay for only five semesters at the Law School, though such students will earn about the same number of credits at the Law School as a JD student. Additionally, some of the students’ PhD coursework will count toward their JDs.

The dean’s office hopes students will be able to enroll in this program “fairly soon.”

“The reason we have these programs is because we have many students who want to study the law in connection with other programs,” Dean Kagan says, reasoning that students who wish to enter an academic setting “might be better be prepared if they have a philosophy background, for instance.”

“What we have,” she continues, “is a group of students who want to create a life for themselves in which they will benefit through not only legal knowledge and skills but through other departments and programs” at Harvard.

Also in the planning stage is a joint-degree program with the Graduate School of Design, which would allow students to earn a JD plus a Master’s in Urban Planning in four years. Professors Gerald Frug and David Barron are currently working on the program. The Urban Planning department at GSD will consider the proposal on February 11.

What is not necessarily new is attaining a concurrent degree at HLS and KSG, as interested students have been able to exercise this option before this academic year. What formalizing the program means, however, is that additional resources will now be available for the students. According to the dean’s office, the new program will provide joint-degree seminars, allow for integration of a student’s KSG policy analysis exercise and that student’s HLS written work requirement, as well as ease the burden of identifying other joint-degree students.

Students can earn a JD and either a Master of Public Policy (MPP), Master of Public Administration – International Development (MPA/ID), or Master of Public Policy in Urban Planning (MPP/UP). Like the JD/MBA program, students will be enrolled for four years, spending a full year at HLS, a full year at KSG, and then a mixture of both schools for the last two years.

Stefani Carter, who is enrolled in the JD/MPP program, explains her reasons for applying: “I wanted to gain a fuller understanding of important policy content and process not covered anywhere in the Law School curricula. I think the MPP could be the next logical step . . . for nearly anyone with a public service interest or background.”

Mike Grinthal agrees with that assessment; his worry in applying just to law school was that he would become “a technician of the law” and that he “wouldn’t meet very many fellow students who had passion for what they were doing.” He was accepted into the joint-degree program and is currently a 1L at the Law School, having completed one year at KSG.

Grinthal says of his experiences with the two schools, “It was a bit of regression coming from KSG where people have more work experience and self-direction to HLS, where people are younger and there’s less discussion or valuing of work experience. Though HLS has the reputation for being harder, much less is asked of me here than at KSG.”

“What has also been a little disconcerting,” Grinthal continues, “is that there seems to be no one in the administration of either school overseeing the program,” though he concedes the responsibility is his to figure out what to do next.

Carter adds to Grinthal’s criticism: “I would improve communications between the two schools, and toward that end, some of us . . . are in the process of reviving the KSG/HLS organization, which I’ll be chairing.”

Carter thinks that, just like in any other academic program, improvements can be made. “While most of the core curricula are useful,” she says, “some are impractical and not precisely what you’d expect based on the MPP online description.”

In addition, HLS and the School of Public Health approved a program last year that would allow students to earn a JD and a Master’s in Public Health in just three years plus a summer. Two HLS students were accepted to the program, but as of now they have not committed themselves to attending.

Students not interested in staying beyond their three years at HLS have the option of studying abroad. Kagan says, “All of us want to enhance the international aspects of our school – faculty and curriculum. We have the widest opportunities in international law. The best kind of exposure to the outside world is actually going to the outside world by studying the law at an institution abroad.”

The program allows students to go anywhere in the world, conditioned on approval by the Law School. This spring two students are studying abroad in Brussels and London. Students earn ten credits toward their JD degree while outside the country. Currently the selection process for studying abroad in 2004-2005 is underway.

Daniel Smith applied for the study abroad program last semester and was accepted to ESADE in Barcelona, Spain. Smith says talking to LLM students at HLS convinced him “that studying law in a different legal culture, in a different country, would be a valuable experience.” Smith also notes that an opportunity to exercise his foreign language skills was a motivating factor.

As for the university he attended, Smith says it had “a large exchange program” enabling him “to interact with students from all over Europe, as well as students from Korea and South America.”

“The diversity of cultural and political backgrounds led to some interesting discussions both in and outside of the classroom,” Smith comments.

Harvard Law School has expanded the study abroad program to include the Cambridge LLM program, which is like the Berkeley Exchange program since students will attend the University of Cambridge for one year instead of only a semester. A small group of HLS students have been recommend to Cambridge University for admission and they are waiting for the university’s reply. Because HLS requires applicants to enroll in five Law School semesters, these students will have to stay at the Law School an extra semester to attain their JD degrees.

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