Course Spotlight: International Law with Professor Leah Carmicheal

By: Zoe Booth

When you think of the “study of law” do you think of huge textbooks, hours of reading, and memorization? Before this semester, I did too. I am currently taking Professor Carmicheal’s International Law course, and let me say it takes a completely unique approach to the study of law. Despite the high praise this course and Professor Carmicheal receives from its previous students, I was skeptical of how interactive, and even fun, a law class could really be.

I will be the first to say it lives up to the high praise it receives from students who have previously taken it. Professor Carmicheal stresses the importance of learning by doing in the way this class is structured. Every week we read a short chapter from Professor Carmicheal’s course reader and take a short quiz before class. Each chapter consists of concepts or history of international law and then a real-life international case which we will simulate later in the week. In class, we are broken into three groups to prepare for the simulation of the case that week, and we prepare arguments, rebuttals, and rulings for the side of the case that we are assigned using sources of international law. Then we have a moot court simulation where each side presents their arguments and the justices rule in favor of the better argument based on the law.

While this may sound intimidating to someone who has never done it before, Professor Carmicheal eases her students into it by raising her expectations of us each week. She believes that the only way to really learn something is to take the material and apply it!

Personally, having to apply the material in a simulation forces me to fully understand the material and the cases so that I can create effective arguments and rulings. This assists me in actually retaining information and keeps me fully engaged in the material, which otherwise, if presented in a conventional way, would be considered boring and monotonous to me.

Creative, engaging professors like Professor Carmicheal are what makes SPIA so special. These professors are fully invested in our learning and retaining of information, rather than just a feeling of obligation to present material and hope we retain it. Professor Carmicheal also offers her personal guidance in how to achieve our career goals which is a testament to how invested she is in the success and happiness of her students. I am thankful for my SPIA experience because of caring professors like Professor Carmicheal and interactive classes like International Law.