UAA partners with Willamette University to expand Alaskans’ access to law education

by Green & Gold News  |   

Screen shot of virtual meeting between UAA College of Health and Willamette University College of Law
Representatives from the University of Alaska Anchorage and Willamette University meet virtually to formalize a new direct-admit juris doctor program for UAA students.

The University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) is partnering with Willamette University College of Law to expand access to law degrees for Alaskan students, offering a new direct-admit juris doctor (J.D.) program for qualified UAA students and alumni who are planning to attend law school. The agreement was formalized in a signing ceremony between the two universities on May 28, 2021.

The 4+3 Direct Admission Program guarantees admission to Willamette College of Law’s J.D. program for students and alumni who have earned a UAA bachelor’s degree in any field and who meet certain additional academic requirements and standards. The program also guarantees admitted students a scholarship of $10,000, renewable each year the student is enrolled at Willamette Law and remains in good academic standing.

The direct-admit law program at UAA is offered in addition to Willamette’s existing partnership program with the University of Alaska Southeast. Because Alaska does not have an in-state law school, Willamette has long been a top choice among UAA students planning to pursue a legal career. Many prominent Alaskan attorneys and politicians have earned their law degrees from Willamette, including U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, University of Alaska Regent Mary K. Hughes, and Judge Joshua M. Kindred of the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska.

"Alaska and its peoples have always been important to Willamette University,” said University of Alaska Regent Hughes, “and Willamette University has been the ‘go-to’ private educational experience for Alaskans, whether for a bachelor's degree or graduate programs in business and law, for generations. This collaboration between Willamette University and UAA further strengthens the bond and provides a giant step in the pursuit of accessible legal training for Alaskans."

“Expanding access to law education is critical to Alaska’s future,” said UAA Provost Denise Runge. “This partnership creates an enduring path for more Alaskan students to pursue their dreams of becoming attorneys. Additionally, the guaranteed direct admission scholarship reduces one of the most significant barriers to attending law school—cost—for high-achieving UAA students who are committed to serving the state of Alaska and our communities.”

Brian Gallini, dean of Willamette University’s College of Law, said “This agreement continues the longstanding relationship our institution has had with the state of Alaska, and demonstrates our ongoing commitment to serve its citizens and legal community. We hope this collaborative initiative enhances access to a legal education while providing transparency in the law school admissions and scholarship process.”

Ryan Fortson, associate professor at the UAA Justice Center and coordinator of the university’s legal studies program, frequently teaches UAA students who are interested in attending law school. He anticipates that the partnership will have significant benefits to students. “The direct admission program with Willamette Law helps UAA students by removing some of the uncertainty of applying to law school,” said Fortson. “This gives our students something to aspire to as they work toward their bachelor’s degree."

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