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Visionary Gift Empowers Next Generation of Leaders

June 2017
Clara Manahan, LSJ Senior Presenting to Foundation Board

“LSJ tells the story of hope: It presents to its students the harsh realities of the world and then has the audacity to convince them that they can change it.” – LSJ undergraduate, Clara Manahan

Thanks to a recent gift from the Mark Torrance Foundation, the innovations that have come to define Law, Societies & Justice (LSJ) major will be greatly empowered in the coming years. Through the gift, Steve Herbert, director of LSJ and professor of LSJ and geography, begins a five-year professorship to further LSJ’s cutting-edge work, including transformational teaching methods and experienced-based learning. 

LSJ, an interdisciplinary program, challenges students to understand the forms and functions of law in an increasingly globalized world. Students develop a deep understanding for the variety of issues that effect the translation and impact of law on societies and individuals.

“LSJ focuses on how law on the books and law in action differ–it thrives in that gray area,” LSJ undergraduate Clara Manahan explained during a recent presentation to the UW Foundation board. “It fearlessly drives into the heart of issues we face as socially conscious beings, and begins to equip students with the skills necessary to approach the world with analytic eyes, a determined spirit and a compassionate heart.”

To accomplish this, LSJ relies on experience-based and immersive learning opportunities and a tight-knit community of students, faculty, and alumni who, together, are tackling our most pressing social justice issues. LSJ students are not preparing to build a better world after they graduate; they are actively engaged in shaping it now.

Herbert, director of LSJ since 2010, develops and encourages opportunities to shape the future by stewarding student experiences at the nexus of social justice, analysis and impact. This work earned Herbert a UW Distinguished Teaching Award in 2009 and inspired his new professorship.


Steve Herbert, Professor and Director of Law, Societies & Justice

Steve Herbert, Professor and Director of Law, Societies & Justice Program, leading a mixed-enrollment class at Monroe Prison  

He regularly teaches study aboard courses and the LSJ honors seminar. And he launched LSJ’s “mixed enrollment” class, bringing UW students inside the Washington State Reformatory to take a 400-level course co-enrolled with inmate students.

“LSJ has opened my eyes to things that broke my heart,” says Manahan. “It has walked with me through the theaters where Dutch Jews were held before being sent to a concentration camp, led me through iron gates and past fences of razor wire to go to class, and watched murder trials with me that began and ended with tragedy. But LSJ has also put my heart back together and shown me beauty in places I could have never expected.  Behind those razor wires gates, I found individuals who defied every stereotype I had been taught; inside those systems that lead to prison, I found individuals fighting to keep kids out. And within LSJ I found powerful mentors who inspire me to leave my mark on the world.”

UW Foundation Board director Mark Torrance was in the audience when Manahan addressed the board about her experience in the LSJ program. Torrance, whose philanthropy focuses on creative solutions to build more healthy and vibrant communities, recognized in Manahan’s story a crucial opportunity for long-lasting and far-reaching impact. He immediately took the opportunity to his foundation, and they decided to establish a five-year professorship in support of Herbert’s leadership of the LSJ program. The professorship will allow Herbert to expand upon his commitment and vision for experience-based learning, social justice, and transformational education.

In addition to increasing LSJ’s capacity to admit more majors, Herbert’s goals for his professorship term include developing new study aboard programs, increasing alumni mentorship opportunities and building upon the success of his prison-based education initiative with new, complementary opportunities that provide real-world impact both for students and the greater community.

Through the Mark Torrance Foundation's investment in Law, Societies & Justice major, the College of Arts & Sciences will continue to implement transformational methods that prepare the next generation of leaders to make their mark on the world with integrity, confidence and compassion.