Tech, Emory discuss potential law program

Tech and Emory University are currently in the initial stages of researching the potential for a joint degree program allowing students to earn a Bachelor’s of Science (BS) in Engineering from the Institute and a Juris Doctor (JD) from Emory. The two schools have worked together in the past to create joint programs such as a MD/PhD program and a number of other joint initiatives.

According to Robert Pikowsky, pre-law advisor at Tech, engineering-based law graduates can pursue a number of different careers in the field. These include patent/intellectual property law, liability lawsuits and other cases involving engineering or technical backgrounds. In particular, such graduates are valuable to the field of litigation, especially those that involve the failure of mechanical structures and devices.

The program would be structured in one of two ways. It could be implemented either as a dual degree or joint degree program.

In the dual degree scenario, students would work for a degree from both schools, and they would be required to apply to each school separately. Once accepted to both schools, the student would receive his or her undergraduate and law education from each respective institution (engineering at Tech and law at Emory). This agreement allows for easy transfer of credits between the universities. The application process for this system would require students to apply separately to each program.

In contrast, the two schools could join together to make a unified program by providing a joint degree curriculum.

According to Pikowsky, this is more in line with what the two schools are planning. Under this option, students would be able to take specialized classes that allow them to fulfill both their engineering and law requirements. This plan requires looking at curriculum, expectations, faculty and the administration of both institutes. Students would have to apply to the joint degree by submitting one application to the program, without having to apply separately.

Historically, joint degree programs at Tech have all been for graduate degrees, and typically last for five-years. Usually, these programs are within the same school. This allows students time to earn a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree by reducing the degree requirements in the curriculum. These programs typically require a minimum GPA (usually at least a 3.0), the completion of a minimum amount of undergraduate hours, and occasionally a faculty mentor.

Many students were at first unsure of what the purpose of the program would be and how it would benefit them directly.

“It’s rare for a high school student to know that they want to have an engineering background and then pursue a law degree. It would be a powerful combination that I believe would open up many doors,” said Michael Tallini, third-year PUBP and HTS student.

According to Susan Paraska, director of Program Review and Accreditation at Tech, considerations will have to be made moving forward as to what the number of required hours would be, and what the cost would be to the average student in the program.

Tech is currently studying other similar degree programs, such as one at Stanford and Duke, to discern the merits and flaws of a potential program at Tech. While there are no plans to implement this program in the near future, the discussion will lead to a more concrete timeline of when the program will be kicked-off officially.

“The next step is to look at the differences in the two disciplines, and what the real value of combining the two programs would be to students,” Paraska said.

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