Deans and administrators from each college suggested two faculty members who deserve special “kudos” during Faculty Appreciation Week.
In her 2½ years at UT Knoxville, College of Law professor Karla McKanders has had a big impact both on her students and on immigrants making Knoxville their home. She teaches in the college’s Advocacy Clinic, guiding pairs of third-year law students as they represent local clients in immigration cases.
“Professor McKanders has added a wonderful new dimension to our clinical program,” said Doug Blaze, dean of the college. “By establishing a new component that involves representing individuals facing deportation in political asylum cases, she has become deeply involved in the state’s immigrant rights and social justice community.”
Blaze said that while McKanders is significantly advancing the university’s service and outreach mission, she also has quickly established a national reputation through her research about issues affecting the growing immigrant community.
McKanders realized her passion for immigrant and refugee law while studying abroad during her undergraduate days in Strasbourg, France, home of the European Court of Human Rights. While clerking for a federal judge in her home state of Michigan, immigration cases continued to catch her eye.
“I saw a lot of bad representation as a clerk,” McKanders said. “Poorly-written briefs, bad arguments, you name it. I wanted to be able to have an impact on students,” she explained.
Following her clerkship, she taught in an asylum clinic at Villanova University before coming to UT. She coached her first moot court team this past fall, and they recently claimed second place in the national competition.
“To me, watching them from where they started in the fall — timid and uncertain — and seeing their confidence grow is the best part of being a teacher,” she said. “I know they’ll be able to go out and practice and be successful.”
Though she grew up in Michigan, McKanders has family all over the country. In her spare time, she enjoys yoga, running races, working out and playing the saxophone.
“She has developed new course offerings in the complex litigation area of electronic discovery and how to use classroom technology in innovative ways to provide experiential learning opportunities,” said Doug Blaze, dean of the College of Law.
Schaefer’s pre-trial litigation course focuses on electronic discovery, or the process by which attorneys comb through clients’ electronic documents — e-mails, computer records, archived files, etc. — to find those related to a specific legal case.
“Discovery used to involve sorting through paper documents,” Schaefer said. “Today everything in business is e-mailed. Now ‘discovery’ is called ‘e-discovery.’ The process is so much more involved, and law schools have struggled with how to teach it.”
Schaefer wanted to give her students the opportunity to actually try their own hand at e-discovery. To do so, she needed to create her own cache of electronic documents.
Students in a fall semester independent study course are assigned roles in a mock-business dispute and send multiple e-mails to each other each day — some related to the dispute and some unrelated. In the spring semester, Schaefer’s pre-trial litigation students are each assigned to a side in the dispute and must sift through the electronic documents created the previous semester.
Schaefer has even been able to get software donated from a vendor that works with law firms, so that when her students graduate, they have experience using the systems they’ll need to navigate as professionals.
The course has proven to be quite the undertaking for both Schaefer and those who have supported the effort.
“There’s been a big learning curve for all of us and everyone we’ve asked for help, including the software provider,” Schaefer said. “But it has been worth the effort. Students need to know how to conduct e-discovery because it will be such a big part of their lives.”
Schaefer practiced in the area of business litigation for seven years before teaching business law and business ethics at the University of Central Missouri. Since coming to UT, she has become involved with the character and fitness investigation committee for the Tennessee Board of Law Examiners and contributes to a Knoxville Bar Association ethics column.
“Professor Schaefer has served the law school and the university every time she has been asked, often on the most important tasks facing the college and university,” Blaze said.
Schaefer and her husband have two sons, ages 6 and 7. When not teaching or keeping up with her children, she enjoys cooking, decorating and reading.