Story By Medha Raman
Photos By Alexa Sinclair
The sounds of melodious music, animated conversations, and joyful celebration floated in the air on October 20th, as LSJ alumni of all ages gathered together to commemorate the program’s 15th anniversary. The celebration, held at the recently opened wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ – Intellectual House, was complete with appetizers, beer and wine, student musicians, speeches, and new LSJ merchandise.
For many, the event was an opportunity to re-connect, both with their peers and with the program. While it had been longer for some than others, all attendees seemed excited to revisit old connections and build new ones.
“It’s really special that there’s all sorts of alumni here, back from the 90’s,” said Zachary Hunter, class of 2016 LSJ alumnus. “There’s a spirit to the major that keeps people coming back.”
This theme of the community that LSJ has built was one that was common throughout the night. According to LSJ Director Steve Herbert, students choosing to take risks every day in class by engaging critically with the material, combined with the continued support of faculty and staff has allowed this diverse, intellectual, and inviting community to thrive.
In her speech, LSJ alumnus Andrea Greenstein shared how the values of this community not only impacted her as a student, but also transcended the boundaries of UW once she graduated.
“I’m very proud of the network that is standing here today,” Greenstein said. “One of the most wonderful things about this major is that it builds people who are social and political activists, and who are also critical thinkers.”
The event also provided alumni and faculty a chance to reflect on the state of the program, what they love about it, and how far it has come in 15 years.
Herbert did this with an argument, reminiscent of most LSJ classes, stating, “I want to make an argument with lots of evidence and multiple perspectives that at the age of 15, LSJ is in a remarkably healthy state.”
He supported his claim by explaining what makes LSJ so remarkable, specifically noting the contributions of faculty, staff and alumni of the department, and how each of them has worked to make LSJ as strong as it is.
The significant and vital role of faculty and staff was one that was similarly noted by Divisional Dean of Social Sciences, Judy Howard.
“The educational experience students receive in LSJ is transformational,” Howard said. “Faculty don’t tell you what to think, but how to think, in a deeply critical way.”
For Professors like Jamie Mayerfeld, this event was a reminder of what they love about LSJ.
“This event calls attention to the fact LSJ is a great program because it is open minded, reality-based, and eclectic,” Mayerfeld said. “As an LSJ professor, it’s fun to spend time with colleagues who are interested in how the law functions in the real world and to meet students who are always pushing us to think more clearly.”
It is clear that over the course of its 15 years of existence, thanks to the combined efforts of faculty, staff, students, and alumni, the LSJ department radically transformed its predecessor Society and Justice into the thriving major we see today. The birthday celebration was a forum to celebrate that monumental success.
There was no better measure of that success than to see and hear about the variety of accomplishments and accolades of LSJ alumni throughout the night.
“We are so proud of the fact that we had the opportunity to teach you,” Herbert concluded. “We are so proud of who you have become.”