This past week, the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s innovative Master in Law (ML) program welcomed over 90 students into its summer session, double the number that enrolled last summer, for what will be the school’s first ever completely remote term. This year’s extraordinarily diverse cohort includes professionals, faculty, and a diverse student group including Wharton MBA, Penn Dental students, and, for the first time ever, Penn Veterinary Medicine students – all pursuing joint degrees with the ML.
Since its launch in 2014, the ML program has offered Penn graduate students and accomplished professionals the opportunity to immerse themselves in learning the law that impacts their scholarship and shapes their fields.
Executive Director of the ML program Catharine Restrepo L’93 says that what ML students have in common is their maturity, intellectual curiosity, drive, and creativity. They are humble, yet confident, she says, enthusiastically embracing the challenge of studying law for the first time, sometimes decades after their last classroom experience.
“These students understand that their disciplines do not operate in a vacuum and that legal education is a powerful tool for making a meaningful impact,” said Restrepo. “They are committed to working towards the betterment of society, whether by finding a cure for heart disease, protecting consumers through technology resulting in quicker product recall notices, or improving access to quality public education.”
Alumni praise for the ML Program
Popular with leaders in healthcare, business, and other heavily regulated industries, the program has launched some alumni into new career trajectories and given all alumni the tools to transform the way their professions relate to the law.
Shaanan Cohney ML’19, who recently graduated from Penn with both an ML and PhD in Computer and Information Science, was drawn to the ML program for the opportunity it presented to integrate his research with a clearer understanding of the social context in which it occurs.
“As a researcher in the field of computer security and cryptography, I design tools that shift power-dynamics centered around flows of information,” said Cohney. “The ML program gave me a chance to learn how the law shapes these power dynamics and where there are gaps I can fill.”
As an ML grad, Cohney added, “I have the ability to leverage research in computer science and use it to drive policy discussion, both inside and outside the academy. The ML program equipped me for work in the federal government, first as a Cybersecurity Policy Fellow in the office of U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, and then in a similar role with the Office of Policy Planning at the Federal Trade Commission. With an education from Penn Law in hand, it was much easier to show the legal chops required to draft and comment on legislation and regulation.”
Cohney is currently a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Princeton University’s Center for IT Policy, a year-long position that is a prelude to his appointment on the standing faculty at the University of Melbourne in the School of Computer and Information Science starting in 2021.
Kiran Musunuru ML ’19, medical doctor, professor, genetics researcher, and co-founder of Verve Therapeutics, so enjoyed his experience in the ML program that, even after graduating, he has returned this summer to take the brand new Entrepreneurship and Startup Law course, which offers a practical and intensive survey of the critical legal and transactional issues facing emerging small businesses and start-ups.
“The experience of getting the ML degree was instrumental in helping me start my biotechnology company over the past couple of years,” said Musunuru. “I thought this course would be useful in reflecting back on that experience and getting a better understanding of all the legal issues that came into play. Just because I’ve completed my ML degree doesn’t mean there’s not still lots to learn!”
While he misses the opportunities to informally chat with fellow students during breaks, online classes made it possible for Musunuru to take the course, since he is spending much of the summer away from Philadelphia.
“It’s clear that it can be just as interactive an experience as in-person classes,” he said of virtual instruction. “In some ways it’s even more interactive because there’s the opportunity to use the chat function to ask and answer questions for each other in real time without disrupting the class.”
Summer enrollment jump in ML courses
Restrepo attributes this summer’s jump in enrollment to a confluence of factors.
“Most importantly, much of the growth and momentum we are witnessing is because word is spreading about the unique and valuable product we offer in the ML program. Our students and alumni are our best marketing resource,” she said.
Further, in addition to a robust digital marketing campaign and other outreach efforts, “the COVID-19 crisis, coming on the heels of many Constitutional conflicts in the news in recent years, has brought new attention to the power of law to impact our everyday lives and our society as a whole.”
Finally, many students have shared that during a time of uncertainty, they appreciated that they could enroll in these ML courses “knowing that they could rely on the quality, value, and relevance of the coursework.”
Read more about the ML program and its offerings.