‘Part of the community’
UND Law transfer students talk about experiences in new home, school
Picking up your life and moving is never easy. Especially if you’re transferring to a new law school.
Over the past couple of years, UND has seen a slight uptick in law transfers.
“There are a variety of reasons to change law schools,” said Brad Parrish, assistant dean for student life. “If we can make it work, we help students transfer here. It’s part of the character of who we are.”
“We’re always open to transfers,” said Kathryn Rand, dean of the law school. “We didn’t do anything special to attract new students – it was all word of mouth. They heard about us through the grapevine and the positive experiences other students had. They immediately became part of the community.”
Zainab Ching-Yin, a third-year student, completed her first year at a private, for-profit law school, and she wanted to go someplace less expensive.
“UND offers a good quality education,” said Ching-Yin. “It’s a lot smaller, with a good student-to-teacher ratio.”
Ching-Yin, who is originally from Nigeria and previously lived in Canada, flew into Grand Forks from Charlotte, N.C., in January 2016. She was met by Parrish, who helped with her luggage, brought her to the residence hall, and then took her shopping for winter gear.
“I was surprised that Dean Parrish picked me up,” Ching-Yin said. “He went out of his way, and then he gave me a tour of the law school and introduced me to every student. I really loved that.”
“UND is a great program,” said Woodly Claircius Fenelus, a third-year law student who transferred to UND this fall. “A friend told me about it, and I checked it out. It’s a great school in a small setting.”
Fenelus left her husband, two children and mom behind in Charlotte so she could finish her degree.
“I look at the long-term benefit to my kids,” said Fenelus, who said she’s been known to breast-feed a baby while reading contracts. “Life requires sacrifice. I feel part of the family in this school.”
Fenelus accepted an offer to clerk for the Northeast Central Judicial District in Grand Forks her first week. “Students are very welcoming, and everyone is nice.”
Cassandre Saintilus, who grew up in West Palm Beach, Fla., found UND Law through a friend who graduated from the school.
“He recommended UND as a great school, so I looked into it,” said Saintilus, who added she had a great experience with Laureen Johnson in the admissions and records office. “She was so understanding, and she alleviated my anxiety. Laureen made it easy.”
Transfer students have been diving right in to become student leaders, said Rand. “It’s fantastic.”
“There’s always something to do,” said Ching-Yin. As a member of the Multicultural Law Society, she marched in the Homecoming parade as part of the Black Law Student Society, and is an intern at the Grand Forks Public Defenders Office. “The University tries to help people be involved. The focus on international students is beautiful,” she said, referring to Culture Nights at the International Center.
“The school fosters a sense of family and a tight-knit culture,” said Saintilus, who serves as secretary for the Black Law Students Association and marched in the Homecoming parade. She is transitioning to the UND Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity and does Bible study with Intervarsity. “I’m a city girl, used to a large-city environment, and it’s good to be on a college campus again.”
Saintilus said she enjoyed the recent visit by the North Dakota Supreme Court, where she watched them hear cases, heard Chief Justice VandeWalle speak at one of her classes, and was able to converse with the justices.
“I loved watching the proceedings,” Saintilus said. “It was interesting to see the different personalities of the attorneys.”
There have also been some surprises for the students.
“Prior to coming here, I didn’t look at the demographics,” said Saintilus. “The lack of diversity is an underlying issue, and I hope talking about it helps.”
And there are the usual surprises when people come to Grand Forks.
“I was surprised by how much people like hockey,” said Ching-Yin. “And by the winters. I’m used to Toronto winters. It’s different here – there are fewer trees to block the wind.”
Transferring to UND has been a good experience, said the students.
“UND is beautiful,” said Saintilus. “It’s very old, and I love the color of the bricks. This school has been around since the 1800s. It’s an awesome place, and a solid foundation ensures a solid future.”
“I don’t know of any other law school that has the Supreme Court speak to classes and hold hearings,” said Fenelus. “I love the opportunities UND presents. The faculty and administrators work for the benefit of students.”
“I like the sense of community,” said Ching-Yin. “I haven’t met anyone who hasn’t been nice to me. You get what you give back. I’m getting a really good quality education.”
“Dean Rand has the best sneaker collection ever!” added Ching-Yin. “She knows everyone’s name and keeps tabs on how you’re doing. She’s been nothing but wonderful, and introduced me to her mom during Homecoming. The office of student life, from Brad to everyone, has been wonderful.”