SWLAW Blog | Dean's Fellow Digest

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April 13, 2020

Dean's Fellow Digest Issue #6 - Disappointment and Acceptance and More

Issue: 2020-06

Dean's Fellows consistently strive to support students in realizing their full academic potential, leading ultimately to success on the bar exam and in the workplace. To support all Southwestern students in this goal, the Dean's Fellows created this Digest as a way to check-in at critical times throughout the semester with helpful tips, strategies, and encouragement. 


  • Disappointment and Acceptance
  • Dean's Fellows on How to Stay Energized, Focused, and Motivated During Online Learning

Disappointment and Acceptance
By: Andrew Hyman* 

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I read a book a few years ago by someone who had been in the military; he talked about a training exercise his unit would run, which was about methods for taking control of a seized building. There was a multi-story building facade, and he and the other soldiers would be on foot, guided closer and closer over the radio, until they'd place an explosive on the door, wait for the order to proceed, and swarm in and take control. They practiced it again and again. Only every now and then, they'd be crouched in position, explosive set and ready, waiting for the word "go"—and nothing would happen. They'd wait, only to hear silence, and then eventually they'd get an order to call it off. Sometimes they'd hear nothing at all, and have to decide when to just call it off themselves and keep walking.

They did this because someone at some point realized that backing down from an expectation—when you're fired up and ready to go—required practice too. It was one thing to charge in full-speed-ahead under stressful circumstances—the soldiers could handle that—but accepting that they didn't get to do what they'd been preparing for and anticipating presented its own set of emotional challenges that weren't to be taken lightly. And, if all they ever practiced was successfully storming the building, when the soldiers got to the real thing, and then were told to back down, or worse, told nothing at all (which, if something went wrong, might just happen), someone might very well not be able to handle it, and rush through the door anyway.

Many of us have spent this year with our anticipation growing, especially those in their first year: You've been hearing again and again about a competition for an honors program that you've got your heart set on joining, or you've got a summer externship you fought really hard for, and now these things are delayed, or uncertain, and no one can tell you how or when this is all going to work out, or if the world will know anytime soon. And feeling some serious disappointment or frustration about not being able to run through that door when you'd planned—and about the silence on the other end of the radio—would be a perfectly reasonable reaction.

So, how do you move from that, to acceptance? Understand that whatever you're feeling is okay. That you don't have to push it away, or deny it, or tell yourself you should be feeling something else. Say it out loud: "I'm disappointed." And, even more, explore that emotion; say to yourself, I'm going to look at this disappointment, and see what it's really all about. Most of all, hold yourself in complete compassion—treat yourself the way you would a friend, or family member, who you love and support unconditionally. And, know that this is our amazing opportunity to practice how we handle the disappointment that will most certainly rear its head in each of our careers, at some point (no one gets through a lifetime without running into it somewhere...).

After all, learning the tools for acceptance here in the supportive environment of Southwestern is the best thing we can do. So that, when we see disappointment again somewhere down the road, we don't angrily charge into danger, but embrace it and keep walking in the right direction.

Dean's Fellows on How to Stay Energized, Focused, and Motivated During Online Learning

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1. Seek Help

If you’re not sure how to schedule your study time, gain access to Zoom, or stay on track, seek help. Reach out to your Foundations of Law professor, Dean’s Fellows, Dean of Students, professors, and staff if you have any questions or need some advice. Everyone at Southwestern is here to support you and ensure we continue to facilitate your learning.


2. Get Dressed

Don’t stay in your pajamas/sweats all day. Getting dressed when working from home helps create structure for yourself and helps you to stick to your schedule.

Image - My Zen Workspace



3. Plan your Distractions

Inevitably, we will be distracted either from the people we live with, Netflix, napping, social media, snacking, and more Netflix. So, instead, do it in a more efficient way as a means of rewarding yourself. Set up a checklist of tasks and a “distracter” between them to motivate yourself to keep going.

- Levon Derkalousdian, ‘20


4. Take Breaks from the News

Close the door to your room or wherever you’re study space is set up, turn off the TV, and avoid watching the news around the clock. While it’s important to stay up-to-date, having the news constantly on in the background can be distracting and emotionally draining, causing added stress you don’t need. Instead, dedicate certain times throughout the day to check your favorite news sources for updates, take it in, and get back to work. I have actually completed a lot of work since I turned off my TV and erased my social media apps. Hope this helps!

- Katherine Vazquez, ‘21


5. Scheduling/Maintain a Routine

Create a schedule of what you plan to accomplish throughout the day. Start off with inputting your Zoom class times. Then, find times in between when you’re going to do readings, when you will be outlining, and when you will take breaks. It’s also important to find a daily routine because it helps us have a sense of control. Fix your bed when you wake up, exercise, plan healthy meals, and stick to your school schedule. I find sticking to a schedule and visually seeing what needs to be accomplished lessons anxiety.

- Amrit Kang, ‘21


6. Create a Zen Study Space

Having a space set up to work that is different from where you eat, sleep, and play is really important. Even if you don’t have a separate space, try to create some distance from these areas. Getting into a routine every day is important, too. I worked from home for a couple of years and it can be done successfully, but it has to be thought of as school/work time. Here is what my space looks like!

Image - My Zen Workspace 2


- Haley Pollock, ‘21


7. Treat Zoom as an In-Person Class

Remember that you see everyone, and everyone sees you. Yes, you can turn off your camera, but I think it helps you, your peers, and your professors to keep the camera on. Although you might be comfy on the couch wearing your sweats while on Zoom, maintain your professional etiquette – dress comfortably, but appropriately.

- Dina Issagholi, ‘21


8. Stay Organized

It is important to keep your workspace as well as your time organized. It’s okay to spend a day tidying up your work space—a clean workspace is an effective one! It can also help reduce stress and serve as a study break. Since many of us will save time not having to commute to school, use this to your advantage and read ahead, update outlines, and start taking practice exams.

- Brittany Butler, ‘21


9. Know Your Zoom Features

While we are all law students and love to participate and express our opinions, it is important to wait until other students are finished speaking before jumping in. Zoom will capture a lot of sounds and if a student unmutes themselves to jump into a conversation, we will begin to hear background sounds that are present. This can be distracting and can cause a speaker to become inaudible. That can lead to unnecessary repetition and tangents the class. I recommend practicing patience and using the raising hand feature. Your Professors are aware when students have a question.  You can also use the features in zoom under the “Participants” tab, such as raising/lowering hand, click yes/no for quick responses, or using the chat feature.

- Abraham Bran, ‘21


10. Stay Healthy

Stay healthy -- “A healthy mind in a healthy body.” Given our current circumstances, it is easy to forget to take care of ourselves. It’s important now, more than ever, to stay active not only to stay healthy, but also to help you stay energized and focused throughout the day. Take a walk around your block, ride a bike, exercise in your home gym, or do some yoga in your room. Whatever it is, do at least 30 minutes of exercise. It’s also important to take your vitamins!

Here is a list of studios and gyms offering live-stream workouts.



11. Set Up for Class

I would suggest deleting your social media apps to lessen the desire to be distracted, which I have done and found helpful. Before class, try to rearrange your space to have all your materials—computer, book, and notes—ready at least ten minutes before class. That way, it will feel like you are really in class, and you can use the time to center yourself for class. Also, remember to walk or stretch after you have been sitting or standing for long periods of time, otherwise, you will grow tired and discouraged. Lastly, I think it is just important to realize these times are not ideal for law school and to not be rough on yourself if you are not as productive as desired. You will slowly get into a routine and stay focused.

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- Brendan Nafarrate, ‘21


12. Study Groups

Do Facetime study sessions! Tackling essays and talking through concepts with a study partner makes the task seem less dreadful and holds you more accountable. Set aside an hour or two of your weekends and virtually study with a friend. That way you get your task done, and you feel a little less lonely in the midst of this quarantine.

- Kristen Abajian, ‘21

*About the Author:


Image - Andrew HymanAndy is a 2L traditional day student. He is a certified law clerk in Southwestern's Youth Offender Parole Clinic, as well as a Law Review staff member, teaching assistant for Professor Kathryn Campbell's LAWS class, and research assistant for Professor Michael Dorff. This summer, he'll be pursuing his interest in criminal appellate litigation at the California Appellate Project.




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