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Meet a Colleague: Matt Boaz Matt Boaz is acting director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic and a Professor of Practice.

boaz-800x533 Meet a Colleague: Matt BoazMatt Boaz and Family

Matthew Boaz is the Acting Director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic at W&L Law and is a Professor of Practice. His scholarship is concerned with the intersection of criminal law and immigration law, abolition, and representation in immigration proceedings. Prior to joining W&L in 2019, Professor Boaz was a practicing immigration attorney. Born in Oklahoma, Professor Boaz has lived in Texas, Spain, North Carolina, Washington, D.C., New York, and now Virginia. His wife, Mary Mason, runs her own business coaching executive clients and consulting with education-focused companies. Professor Boaz has two children, Nan (6) and Mary Fraser (3), whom you may have seen around town being carted on the back of his cargo bike. When not in the office, you can find him posing with his family for an annual picture at the Beaver Dam Farm Sunflower Festival in Buchanan, VA.

Q. Where is your favorite location on the W&L campus?
Anywhere that the monthly Story Decisis short story reading group is meeting at the law school. In the fall, this is on our law school patio with warm cider and homemade salted brown butter Rice Krispies treats.

Q. What is your favorite thing to do when you are not working?
I’m part of an incorrigible running group that spends most of our multi-mile jogs discussing the finer points of various candy bars (and dried cherries), arguing about zero-drop running shoes, and convincing each other to join the Lexington City Planning Commission. I also love Boxerwood’s Music in the Garden series over the summer and the Lime Kiln summer concert series. It’s tough to imagine a better way to spend an evening. Last, I’ve succumbed to the alluring sport known as “pickleball.”

Q. Book/Podcast/TV Show Recommendation?
Book: My wife claims that I recommended “Infinite Jest” to her on our first date, which seems embarrassingly possible. For now, I’ll offer “A Children’s Bible” or “Dinosaurs,” both by Lydia Millet (and recommended to me by Emily King, an incoming English professor!).

Podcast: I really love the history podcast “Throughline” from NPR. Equally edifying is “Normal Gossip,” a show that shares some really wild stories, but ultimately points out how much we all have in common with each other.

TV Show: I have a soft spot for anything by Mindy Kaling. I also just watched “Shrinking” on Apple TV, and I openly cackled at least once per episode. A very humane look at processing grief, with some very human storytelling.

Q. Who inspired you to teach?
That’s a tough one! My mom was a teacher, so I think she was the original inspiration. I had some fantastic teachers growing up, and some excellent English/ Literature teachers in high school. In particular, Ms. Courtney-Smith created some wonderful student projects, including an ongoing series where we wrote poems, then painted a watercolor about someone else’s poem, and then exchanged watercolors and wrote new poems. Finally, my clinical professor in law school, Andy Schoenholtz, led me to want to do exactly what I am doing now, and I am so grateful for that experience.

Q. What courses are you teaching this semester?
The Immigrant Rights Clinic! This is a hands-on course where students serve as actual attorneys, interviewing their clients, writing briefs, and appearing in court. I am always astounded at the growth that students experience in this course. The most gratifying part is hearing from students after they graduate and learning about the work they are doing after being admitted to the bar. Many have gone on to do immigrant rights work or to represent asylum seekers in pro bono. In the spring, I’ll be teaching Criminal Law and an undergraduate capstone course for the Law, Justice, and Society minor, in which we incorporate undergrads into some of our clinical programs at the law school.

Q. What research are you currently working on?
My current scholarship is focused on incorporating abolitionist methodology from the field of criminal legal theory into the realm of immigration enforcement. I have an article that I’ve been working on all summer, and it has quickly morphed into several different pieces. I get many of my ideas from students, especially in my “Crimmigration” seminar, where students write papers about various intersections between criminal law and immigration law.

Q. If you could have coffee or tea with one person, who would it be and why?
My dad’s mother. She died before I was born, but I think I get a lot of my enthusiasm and curiosity from her. She was born on a now uninhabited island in Scotland and made her way to the U.S. as a teenager. I just visited Edinburgh for the first time, and I can imagine having tea and looking out over the sea while gossiping about what her neighbors said at the pub the previous night.

Q. What is an accomplishment you are proud of?
Having this job. There is truly nothing more rewarding I can think of than working with students and clients each day. I feel very lucky to have landed in the W&L community.

Q. Favorite food/restaurant/drink?
Food – Falafel. Yummmmmmm.
Restaurant – Fonda, a Mexican restaurant in New York, or Dishoom, an Indian restaurant in the UK.
Drink – An old fashioned, preferably with some of my mother-in-law’s bourbon.

Q. Most used/enjoyable app on your phone?
Paprika. This is an amazing app, where I keep all of my recipes. I love cooking, and I tend to adjust recipes over time, so this is a great app for keeping track of all those minor changes.

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