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New Investment in Legal Studies Faculty – An Interview with New Faculty Racquel Cousins

 

Noted professor Racquel Cousins Esq. was hired by ASA College as part of its increased investment in our successful and respected Legal Studies Department. Though professor Cousins is only in her first semester of teaching, she comes to ASA with over 18 years of experience as a litigator and trial lawyer. Her real-world, criminal-defense perspective is a welcome one among faculty and students. As she says about defense attorneys, “especially in criminal defense, we’re always about protection from oppression. We’re always about knowing your rights and advocating for your rights.” Ms. Cousins feels she has a lot to offer all Legal Studies students because she meditates daily on the ways that the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and laws entitle every individual – regardless of their background or identity – equal protection under the law.

However, it is not her passion for the law that drives her teaching and her ambitious goals for her students. She discovered her love for teaching during the first few weeks of classes. By way of example, she described one of her classes on the first day and now. On day one, many of the students were practice-tired athletes, with their heads on their desks, in “chill mode”. Now, she says, “I’ve seen those same students come in prepared. They’re now reading and prepping, I’m watching them unfold and blossom before my eyes. And it just makes me love it.” Ms. Cousins found it easy to speak at length about her many students – a young man who was disappointed to be missing class because of Thanksgiving break, and a group of female students in the evening who are thoroughly prepared and ready for all challenges even though English is not their first language. ASA students and their potential motivate her work.

What of the workload that she has taken on preparing for all of these classes as a first semester teacher? Even though she is still a practicing attorney when she is not teaching Mondays and Wednesdays, she says, “I expected to like it (teaching). But I didn’t expect to love it. Like I will be at home or writing lesson plans on my weekends and I don’t even care how long it takes. I want to do it. I like doing it. Ask me to prep a case on my weekend and see how miserable I get. But (for teaching) I’ll stay up late. I love it. I love it. I love to watch my students learn.”

Many of her classroom discussions tend to explore issues surrounding oppression, protection, and legal rights. Two lessons of which she is particularly proud concern the way in which students should speak with police officers, and the exploration of professional stereotypes among law enforcement professionals. She believes that its very important for all citizens, and especially for those who are like our students – young, male, and/or minority – to know both their rights and how to express them. She says there are ways to speak to officers without being defensive, and that the right tact can help someone, “get from A to B without being detained for a few hours.”  In terms of addressing the stereotypes of law enforcement professionals, she says that defense attorneys are often in conflict with police officers because defense attorneys cross-examine officers during trials, and because attorneys sometimes have trouble getting all the information they need from officers. Yet she hopes that her students, some of whom will become police officers in the future, will think of lawyers not as stereotypical “difficult know-it-alls,” but rather as “your teacher who was also a lawyer, and how cool and easygoing she was.”

She sees vast potential in all of her students. In addition to careers in law enforcement and criminal investigation, she hopes that students feel encouraged to become lawyers. On the first day of class not a single student said they hoped to become a lawyer, but now Ms. Cousins has students who are interested in the profession. One such female student has cited her as a role model, and has asked her about how long it takes, what exams are required, what prerequisites are needed, and more. Ms. Cousins is excited to provide these answers and tell students how she developed her interests and followed her heart to the profession. Though she is also quick to note that luck played a small part: “But I believe I was lucky. Yeah. Because only 1% of where I’m from, only 1% of society gets a tertiary education. One, one person just one in one hundred. And I was lucky enough to be among that one percent and that’s, that’s a huge deal.” Of course Ms. Cousins believes that we as a society can do better than this. We can support students from marginalized communities and elevate them toward success. At ASA College Professor Cousins is doing her part.

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