Feature Stories Campus Events

W&L Law Professor’s Supreme Court Brief Influential in Immigration Decision

BaluarteD-400x600 W&L Law Professor’s Supreme Court Brief Influential in Immigration DecisionDavid Baluarte

Washington and Lee law professor David Baluarte was among a group of immigration scholars who co-authored an U.S. Supreme Court amicus brief in support of the defendant in Sessions v. Morales-Santana. The case was argued last fall and decided on June 12, 2017.

The Justices decided the case 8-0 in favor of the defendant, and in their opinion directly reference the brief, Brief of Amici Curiae Scholars on Statelessness in Support of Respondent, accepting the arguments presented by the group and acknowledging its influence in the outcome of the decision.

The case was an appeal by the federal government that sought to defend the constitutionality of less favorable treatment, for purposes of acquiring U.S. citizenship, of a child born abroad to an unwed U.S. citizen father than the treatment given to a child born abroad to an unwed U.S. citizen mother.

In arguing for the defendant, the authors of the brief claimed that there is no support for the government’s assertion that the risk of statelessness for a foreign born, non-marital child was or is substantially greater when the U.S.-citizen parent is the mother rather than the father.

The Court agreed and found this provision of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act to be unconstitutional for being incompatible with the Fifth Amendment’s requirement that the government accord to all persons “the equal protection of the laws”.

Baluarte, who directs the Immigrant Rights Clinic at W&L Law, last year was awarded a Fulbright U.S. Senior Scholars Grant to study the stateless population in Argentina. Baluarte taught in the immigration clinic of the University of Buenos Aires Law School, conducted research on the specific effects of a recent restrictive immigration reform on refugees and stateless persons in Argentina.

Alumni College Livestream: James Joyce and the Writing of Dublin

Marc Conner, provost and the Jo and James Ballengee Professor of English, presents “James Joyce and the Writing of Dublin.” This lecture is part of the Alumni College’s summer program, “The Ireland of Yeats and Joyce.”
 james-joyce-conner-600x400 Alumni College Livestream: James Joyce and the Writing of Dublin
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Animation, Consternation and Elation An independent-study class at W&L allowed students to put together a short animated film from start to finish in only 12 weeks, but it turned out to be much more challenging than they expected.

“With W&L kids, particularly those that are motivated to do this stuff, they are determined to finish. They will be darned if they don’t leave a mark at the end of the day.”

— Professor Gavin Fox

vlcsnap-2017-06-08-09h38m02s770-800x533 Animation, Consternation and ElationThis still image from the final product of the 3D animation class shows one of the characters, a bird.

One of Ellen Kanzinger’s role models growing up was her father, who started his career as a PE teacher but is now an IT specialist teaching skills such as graphic design and video game design. Kanzinger, a member of the Class of 2018, looks up to him because he has never been afraid to teach himself software programs such as PhotoShop, Blender or CAD.

“He sort of moved over to a new career through his own hard work and determination, and I’ve always admired that in him,” she said.

It was her father who came to mind when Gavin Fox, a professor of business administration and marketing in the Williams School at W&L, approached Kanzinger to ask if she’d like to take an independent study course in 3D animation. During the challenging 12-week course, students would craft a story, create characters, learn how to use Blender animation software, and put everything together into a finished short animated film.

By the end of Winter Term, Kanzinger and the other three students who took the class — Jason Renner ‘19, Tory Smith ’18 and Jack Boyce ’19 — would pick up much of what they had hoped to learn. They also learned a few things they hadn’t anticipated, including the importance of adjusting expectations.

Fox, whose research areas include service innovation and viral marketing, is similar to Kanzinger’s dad in that he loves the challenge of teaching himself challenging skills. It is not unusual for this Army veteran and father of three to stay up into the wee hours watching YouTube tutorials.

“My brain always goes to the question ‘Can I figure this out?’ and I try to teach my students to figure things out themselves, as well,” he said. “They’re going to learn things so much better that way.”

The idea for the 3D animation class sprang from a Fall Academy session in the IQ Center at W&L, where Dave Pfaff, the director of the center, allowed guests to test-drive the virtual goggles. That got Fox thinking about animation and the possibility of creating a class that would be, in his words, “the ultimate liberal arts project,” as it would require elements of language and storytelling, design, film, acting, engineering and much more.

As the class got underway, the students envisioned an animated short film that would resemble a Cartoon Network show — something perhaps a bit more crude and beginner-level than a Disney film, but pretty slick nonetheless. By the end of the course, as they scrambled to simply complete the film on deadline, their goal had shifted dramatically.

“This project was much tougher than what any of us thought it would be,” said Jason Renner. “I think we all came to appreciate how long it actually takes movie studios to create animated films, and we are proud to say that we were able to create one, as well.”

First, the students got some guest lectures from professors Jemma Levy, Stephanie Sandberg, Leigh Ann Beavers and Chris Gavaler, who gave them pointers on writing, drawing, acting and storyboarding. Then, they set out to come up with a storyline, script and characters. They settled on the simple parable of a lizard and a bird who are competing to get the worm.

In Blender, a software program for creating 3D computer graphics, the students began to learn how to make shapes and landscapes, and to add color and texture to those features. But as soon as they dove into Blender, they realized they were in the deep end — it may be a free program, but it is certainly not easy.

“The actual implementation of taking the story and putting it in Blender was not easy at all,” Kanzinger said. “It is not an intuitive program. So we had these grand story ideas going in, but our story got simpler and simpler as we moved on.”

Some of the most enjoyable moments in the class took place in the IQ Center, where students took advantage of the university’s motion capture body suits to record movements for the characters that would then be transferred into Blender. “Tory Smith and I spent hours in there capturing different sets of movements,” Renner said, “but it was always a fun time.”

When it came time to animate the characters with the captured movement, they hit a big impediment. Since the program used for motion capture is designed for human movement, it turned out to be virtually impossible to transfer Smith’s movements into the body of the bird. As a result, the bird’s role in the film turned into more of a brief cameo.

“It’s not like they had a year to learn Blender, so they were gaining proficiency at it as they went,” Fox said, “which is why, when you look at a lot of the shapes, they were very basic.” He offered some lessons and tips throughout the process but primarily encouraged students to solve problems they encountered independently.

When the animation was finished, the students still had to render the content, which required them to set aside a large chunk of time on finals week. For example, Kanzinger said, a seven-second scene can take three hours to render (the finished film is about 90 seconds). The students — and their professor — said there was a point when they didn’t know if they’d be able to finish the project in time. But rendering ended up being the least stressful part of the process, and they were able to finish early.

“By the end of the semester, with the deadline for submission approaching, I was delightfully surprised to see every member of the team contribute in meaningful ways to help out together a project that far surpassed my expectations earlier in the semester,” Renner said.

Fox said he had a whole range of possible outcomes in mind when he decided to teach the class, and he was pleased that the project came together. Part of the learning process turned out to include when to cut corners and prioritize when coming up on deadlines.

“With W&L kids, particularly those that are motivated to do this stuff, they are determined to finish,” he said. “They will be darned if they don’t leave a mark at the end of the day.”

Kanzinger and Renner both said they appreciated the challenge and the opportunity to take a class they never thought they’d be able to take outside an art or design school.

“This class is a testament to W&L’s commitment to providing the tools for students to succeed,” Renner said. “By loosely laying out an objective for a group of students, W&L allows its students to test their resolve. The pride one has in all their work by the end is overwhelming, and I can’t thank the university enough for having such classes available.”

W&L Law Tax Clinic Receives IRS Grant

mdrumblnew1-400x600 W&L Law Tax Clinic Receives IRS GrantProf. Michelle Drumbl, director of the Tax Clinic

The Tax Clinic at the Washington and Lee University School of Law has been awarded a matching grant from the Internal Revenue Service’s Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic program (LITC). This is the tenth straight year that the Tax Clinic has received federal dollars to support its efforts.

The grant of $87,750 will help fund the clinic for the 2017 calendar year. This is the largest award the clinic has received from the LITC to date and brings the total federal funds awarded to the clinic since its inception to $655,510.

“I am pleased that the LITC grant program continues to recognize our clinic’s work representing low-income taxpayers throughout Virginia,” said Michelle Drumbl, clinical professor of law and director of the Tax Clinic. “Thanks to the support of the LITC program and W&L, our students will be able to continue their important work serving this community of taxpayers who might otherwise go unrepresented.”

Law students working in the Tax Clinic provide free legal representation to low-income taxpayers in resolving their controversies with the Internal Revenue Service. The Clinic students assist taxpayers with audits and a wide array of collections issues. The clinic also represents taxpayers in tax cases before the U.S. Tax Court and in refund suits in federal district court.

In addition, students in the Tax Clinic prepare outreach brochures to help taxpayers with especially confusing tax questions. This past year, for example, students produced guides on determining filing status and on claiming children as dependents, among other issues.

The Tax Clinic serves the entire state of Virginia. At least 90% of the clients represented by the clinic are “low-income”, meaning their incomes do not exceed 250% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines published annually by the Department of Health and Human Services. For example, a family of four making less than $61,500 per year is eligible to use the Tax Clinic’s services.

The IRS Low Income Taxpayer (LITC) grant program is administered by the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate, which operates independently of any other IRS office and reports directly to Congress through the National Taxpayer Advocate.  Likewise, clinics funded by the grant program remain completely independent of and are not associated with the federal government. The LITC grant program was created as part of the Internal Revenue Service Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998.

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Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest Receive the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy The Lenfests were recognized for their support of arts and culture, education, social services and other charitable causes

Lenfests-Carnegie-Medal Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest Receive the Carnegie Medal of PhilanthropyGerry ’53, ’55L and Marguerite Lenfest. Photo by Michael Bryant/Staff/Philadelphia Inquirer

How much money is enough? That’s a topic Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest ’53, ’55L once discussed while having dinner in New York City with Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and others who have wealth to spare.

Marguerite explained in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer that the answer is straightforward. “You figure out what you need for your lifestyle. What don’t you need? And what do you do with the money you don’t need? You might as well do some good and enjoy the benefits that you’re giving, instead of leaving it for others to decide what to do. Be in charge.”

That’s the philosophy that has driven their philanthropy for the last 18 or so years, in which they’ve distributed more than $1.2 billion to arts and culture, education, social services and other charitable causes. They spent down their foundation’s final dollars to acquire, donate and endow the media company that publishes the Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com.

“That was the last gasp,” said Gerry. “That depleted my wealth.”

In recognition of their generosity, the Lenfests are among nine winners of the prestigious 2017 Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy, given by a group of Andrew Carnegie-affiliated organizations. The national honor is awarded every two years to philanthropists who personify the ideals of Andrew Carnegie’s vision, seeking through their giving to create a world of positive change.

Over the years, the Lenfests have endowed chairs at their various alma maters, established the Lenfest Scholars Foundation, supported the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Museum of the American Revolution, funded overnight camps, and revived the rowing program at Temple University.

W&L is one of several universities that have benefited greatly from the Lenfests’ largesse. A few examples include The Lenfest Center for the Performing Arts and endowments to support faculty salaries, summer research and sabbaticals.

The Carnegie Medal follows the dictum of Andrew Carnegie, who believed “that the person who dies rich dies disgraced.” Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corp., of New York, praised the Lenfests’ exhaustive generosity and also their modesty, integrity and consistency in giving over the years.

“They typify the best of Philadelphia,” he said.

Gerry hopes others will follow their lead in giving away their fortunes to support worthy causes. As he and Marguerite noted, they had a lot of fun doing so.

John D. Klinedinst ’71, ’78L Named Winner of 2017 Most Admired CEO Award

Klinedinst_John_UC.375-285x350 John D. Klinedinst '71, '78L Named Winner of 2017 Most Admired CEO AwardJohn Klinedinst ’71, ’78L

John D. Klinedinst, Founder and CEO of Klinedinst PC, has been named Winner for the 2017 Most Admired CEOs by the San Diego Business Journal. This marks the sixth time in the Award’s 10-year history that Mr. Klinedinst has been chosen as a finalist, and the second time he has been recognized as winner in the privately-held medium-size company category.

For the past decade, the Most Admired CEO Award has recognized San Diego leaders for their outstanding professional achievements and their contributions to the community. Honorees are selected for their determination and insight, as well as their track record for success. Most Admired CEOs are also recognized for their ability to inspire and take the lead in driving not only their businesses, but also the local economy.

Founded by Mr. Klinedinst in 1983, the law firm has seen incredible year-over-year growth. Most recently in 2015, Mr. Klinedinst and the firm’s shareholders launched the firm’s newest office in Seattle, Washington. With its first expansion outside of California, the firm has expanded to serve businesses from five offices across the Western United States.

“To be named a winner of this award is a true reflection of John’s leadership, business acumen, and entrepreneurial spirit,” noted Art Moreau, Shareholder and Chief Operating Officer. “Not only is he an incredible attorney, but a savvy businessperson. His leadership in the business of law affirms this recognition, and we truly congratulate him on receiving this award.”

Every year, the San Diego Business Journal conducts an extensive survey of San Diego firms to identify outstanding and highly-revered Chief Executive Officers. After collecting nominations for Most Admired CEOs, the San Diego Business Journal evaluates all submissions and then publishes its list of finalists for the award. Mr. Klinedinst was recognized as a Most Admired CEO finalist in the category for a Privately-Held Company.

Mr. Klinedinst was named winner at a special awards program and reception on June 15, 2017 at the Hilton San Diego/Del Mar.

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Rapping with a Tap-Dancing Hoosier Meet Suzanne Gardner, assistant director of annual giving at W&L

gardner1-800x533 Rapping with a Tap-Dancing HoosierSuzanne Gardner

What is your official job title?
Assistant Director of Annual Giving

How long have you worked at W&L?
I’ve been at W&L for a year and a half.

What do you like best about working at W&L?
I really enjoy the W&L community. I love being able to work for such a close-knit university. Being here, you truly are a part of the W&L family.

What advice do you have for students (or parents)?
Take advantage of all that W&L and Lexington have to offer. The programs at W&L are amazing, and the Lexington community has so many incredible organizations and opportunities. Four years flies by, so start making your impact now!

Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Bloomington, Indiana (go Hoosiers)! Many of my close friends and family are still in Indiana.

Tell us a little more about yourself.
I grew up in south-central Indiana surrounded by the things Indiana is best known for: flat land and corn. Just kidding, we also have a killer pork tenderloin sandwich at the state fair.

I’ve been a dancer my entire life and continue to tap dance during trips to New York City. I graduated from Indiana University and lived in Indianapolis and Chicago for several years working for a couple of national not-for-profit organizations before making the move to Lex to begin my work with W&L.

I have two siblings who are quite a bit older than me. The age gap between me and my oldest sibling is 21 years. Because of this, I have many nieces and nephews my age and I’m already a great aunt five times. I have a golden retriever that loves hiking, any body of water, squirrels and socks. In my spare time, you will probably find me out on a trail, socializing with friends, or volunteering in the community.

If you could live anywhere, where would you build your dream home?
I don’t know that I would actually settle down and build a dream home at this point in my life. I love the feeling of being able to travel and not having to deal with the upkeep of a house. Someday when I do build a dream home, it will have plenty of land and be near a body of water.

What most inspires you?
The generosity of others. We were all put on this planet to make a difference. I am always so inspired to see what people are doing to help others in their community.

What book are you reading now?
I am getting ready to begin “Grit” by Angela Duckworth.

What music are you listening to these days?
My favorite type of music is rap music. Something about rap just motivates me! Usually when I make the nine-hour drive home to Indiana, I listen to rap to help me power through the drive.

gardner2-800x533 Rapping with a Tap-Dancing HoosierGardner lets her hair down.

Your favorite film of all time?
It’s difficult to pick just one! I’m going to have to go with “Weekend at Bernie’s.”

A website and/or blog you visit often?
I love traveling, so I’m constantly looking up new destinations and travel ideas. I usually end up reading travel blogs quite a bit to plan my next trip and add to my bucket list.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Audrey Hepburn. Audrey was an incredible humanitarian who often put other people above herself. As she once said, “As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.”

If you could have coffee with one person (living or deceased) who would it be and why?
I would have coffee with Betty White. I think she could give some excellent life advice on seeing the humor in everything and not taking things too seriously.

Tell us something most people don’t know about you?
I’ve been able to take part in many unique and amazing experiences in my life, including playing the accordion, childhood acting, and mascot training. I’m usually fairly entertaining and fluent in sarcasm.

If you would like to nominate a co-worker for a Colleague Connections profile, please email Kevin Remington at kremington@wlu.edu.

W&L Quick Hits: Magic, Severed Fingers and a Rube Goldberg Machine Students practiced stage magic, sculpted severed fingers and whipped up batches of fake blood in a Spring Term course on special effects for the theater.

Owen Collins, professor of theater at Washington and Lee, had students practicing stage magic, sculpting severed fingers and whipping up batches of fake blood in his Spring Term course on special effects for the theater. This video largely follows their final project, a Rube Goldberg machine.

Andrew Niblock ’97: Living and Working with ALS His efforts to inspire and educate his community were featured on ABC's "Good Morning America"

Andrew-Niblock Andrew Niblock ’97: Living and Working with ALSAndrew Niblock ’97 starts his day as head of the Greenwich Country Day School with hellos, handshakes and hugs.

Andrew Niblock, the head of the Greenwich (Connecticut) Country Day School’s lower school, makes a point of greeting his students by name as they step through the school’s entrance to start their day.

As the 1997 graduate of Washington and Lee University told Lara Spencer, an anchor of ABC’s “Good Morning America”: “I have the best job in the world. There might be somebody out there who gets more hugs than I do, during their work day, but I’d like to meet them.”

About a year ago, Andrew was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. But he has remained on the job because he wanted to be an example for his students and teach them a lesson about life. First and foremost an educator, he has created age-appropriate videos to help them understand more about the disease.

“I want children to understand curve balls,” Andrew said. “No matter what is thrown your way … if a kid powers through or makes the most of something later because of knowing me, that’d be great.”

Andrew has also helped raise money for research, gamely participating in the ice-bucket challenge that circled the globe a couple of years ago. As the word about his battle with ALS has spread, several W&L classmates are helping raise money for research, too. John Garvey, Brian Kuck, Chris Dalton and Steve Tye will cycle 104 miles — from Newton, Massachusetts, to New York City — in support of the ALS Therapy Development Institute.

You can see Andrew’s interview with ABC here.

Team Niblock: An Update from Steve Tye '97

Team-Niblock-350x263 Andrew Niblock ’97: Living and Working with ALSFrom l. to r.: Brian Kuck, John Garvey, Andrew Niblock, Chris Dalton, Steve Tye, all rugby teammates and Class of ’97.

First of all, I survived the 106.5-mile ride on Friday. If you ever decide to do a 100+ mile bike ride with 5,700 feet worth of hills, I would recommend some hill training. The Silver Comet Trail (an old flat railroad trail where I did all of my training) did not provide adequate preparation for what ended up being some pretty intimidating climbing, but I made it.

More importantly, Team Niblock ended up raising over $$108,000 for ALS Research (as of June 27) and the overall event has raised almost $775,000 at last count. Truly amazing. Thank you for being a part of something so important to me. It was the first time I had ever asked for money for a cause and I was blown away by the generosity of friends and family.

Getting to spend the weekend with Andrew reinforced why we need to find a cure quickly. Fortunately, he will be starting infusions for the new drug recently approved by the FDA, the first one in 20 years, in August. The money you donated will be used to directly impact the work they are doing to accelerate additional treatments and solve the puzzle.

I am truly grateful for all of your support.

Taking Flight Kaela Harmon ’05 makes the case for airports to by combining data analysis with creativity

Harmon-1-800x533 Taking FlightKaela Harmon ’05 promotes her new book.

“The journalism department was like a family. All the professors and administrators rallied around to help students to be well prepared and have a support system,”

—Kaela Harmon ’05

Although she’s still new to a job as public information specialist senior for the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Austin, Texas, she has spent the last five years working with airports and the communities they serve.

In that time, she has learned that airport advocates work to represent their host communities to the airlines. Routes, departure and arrival times, and connections are important to people who rely on airports for business and leisure travel. In Austin, as in her previous job with the Columbia, South Carolina, airport, she enjoys analyzing data and using it to craft creative messages. “We’re always working with the community so they understand our role. We’re marketing the airport to the community.”

She notes that an airplane is “a mobile asset.” Airlines can make decisions at any time about where to move and house their planes, what routes to add or drop, and where important connections will be made. That makes it incumbent on communities and airport officials to make a strong case for their air-transportation needs.

In Austin, Harmon is responsible for media and public relations, and she serves as a liaison for the airport and the airlines. On a typical day, she could be writing a press release about a new service, such as a recent announcement of a new nonstop flight between Austin and London, or planning and hosting an event. She also crafts talking points related to the airport’s public announcements and serves on a team of five to manage the airport’s social media accounts.

“The work is very dynamic. It’s a perfect blend of analytics and creativity,” she said. She also has enjoyed the relationships with industry colleagues that she has formed.

In her hometown of Columbia, she was public relations and government affairs manager for the Columbia Municipal Airport, before being recruited by Sixel Consulting Group, where she worked for almost a year helping local airports make their cases for increased air services. She then did freelance consulting until taking the job in Austin in June 2017.

While in Columbia, Harmon was recognized for her work by being named to several lists, including 20 Under 40, 40 Under 40, Columbia’s 2014 Top Women of Influence and Influential Women in Business.

Harmon did not set out to work in airport public relations. She was working for a small museum in Columbia when she saw an advertisement for the job at the Columbia airport. She applied and accepted the job, which set her on her current career trajectory.

Harmon-2-350x208 Taking FlightKaela Harmon ’05 at the Columbia, South Carolina, airport.

While helping with one of Columbia’s programs — Wings for Autism — Harmon realized she could take her passion for airports to another level. The program is a national effort for individuals with autism spectrum disorders or intellectual or developmental disabilities. Families practice the entire process of moving through the airport and boarding a plane, which helps relieve stress when they make a real trip.

The experience inspired Harmon to write and self-publish “Zoey’s First Plane Ride” for children. While other books focus on airplanes, Harmon wanted to “pass along my enthusiasm for airports.” She walks the reader through every step — checking in at the kiosk, checking luggage and explaining where it goes on the conveyor belt, walking the concourse, understanding airport signage, boarding the plane — all the way through to baggage claim.

“Airports can be overwhelming to children,” Harmon said, noting that the book has been well received. Some airports have picked it up to sell, and the airport in Roanoke, Virginia, purchased 100 copies to give to schoolchildren who toured the airport.

Harmon developed her talent for writing and communications through her major in broadcast journalism and communications. Her high school guidance counselor in Columbia was a W&L graduate — one of the first female, black students on campus — and introduced her to the university. Harmon spent six weeks on campus for a summer-immersion program and after applying, returned for a visit. Walking along the Colonnade, “I felt I really needed to be here,” she remembered.

She values the professors in her major who inspired and mentored her. “Bob de Maria was one of those rare people who takes you under his wing and pushes you to be better,” she said. Professors Dayo Abah and Claudette Artwick also stand out as important to her professional development.

“The journalism department was like a family. All the professors and administrators rallied around to help students to be well prepared and have a support system,” she said. “At W&L, you’re not a number but an individual who matters.”

While on campus, she was involved with the Minority Student Association and helped charter Delta Sigma Theta sorority. She continues to be involved by serving on an advisory board for the journalism department. As well as participating in quarterly meetings, she and other board members review senior portfolios, looking at them with a professional’s eye to provide constructive feedback.

As a young black professional, Harmon never wants to lose sight of the fact that “I’m standing on the shoulders of giants. Many made sacrifices to give me opportunities.” She hopes to continue to lay a foundation for those who come after her.