Deborah Cantrell and Helen Norton bring rich resumes to CU
Students from all over the world are drawn to CU for a laundry list of reasons. Whether it’s the laid-back atmosphere of Boulder, the easy accessibility to the Rockies or the university’s world-class academic atmosphere, it’s easy to see why students consider CU a premier college destination.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking that the wonders of Boulder are enticing only to students – CU’s faculty members are drawn to the school for many of the same reasons that students are. Just ask incoming professor Helen Norton.
“The chance to come to Colorado was in many ways a dream come true,” said Norton, who is joining the CU Law School after teaching at the University of Maryland for five years. “I had the chance to spend some time teaching at the University of Wyoming a few years ago, which only whetted my appetite to spend more time in the Rockies.”
Norton isn’t the only professor coming to CU after hearing the call of the Rockies. After teaching law at Yale for six years, Deborah Cantrell will join Norton as a new member of the CU Law School this fall. But unlike Norton, who grew up in the Pacific Northwest, Cantrell’s arrival in Colorado will be a homecoming.
“I was born here in Boulder,” Cantrell said. “While I went to college back east, I did spend my junior year at CU. I missed the Rockies so much that I had to come back for a year.”
Today, Cantrell’s interest in Colorado consists of more than just a love of the mountains. Cantrell, a graduate of the University of Southern California Law School, is excited to join what she calls a “dynamic community of scholars” in Boulder.
“The faculty here is fabulous, doing great work and is really going to push me in my own scholarship,” Cantrell said. “Importantly for me, a good amount of the faculty is engaged in community advocacy so their own work is tied to trying to solve real world problems.”
Cantrell is no stranger to trying to solve real world problems herself. Before entering academia, Cantrell served as the executive director of the Western Center on Law and Poverty in Los Angeles, an organization focused on protecting the rights of lower-income California residents.
In addition to her work in California, Cantrell ran a statewide legal services program for senior citizens in New Mexico. Cantrell said she was drawn to the programs because of her belief in an individual obligation to work for a universal set of human rights.
“I understand myself to have a moral obligation to advocate for social change that would make possible a flourishing life for all,” Cantrell said. “My work at Western Center and with the elderly in New Mexico were part of my efforts toward such social change.”
But Cantrell isn’t the only one bringing an impressive resume to CU. After graduating from the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California Berkley, Norton went on to work at the National Partnership for Women and Families, a non-profit organization focused on discrimination issues.
After working there for several years, Norton was appointed to a position in the Department of Justice under the Clinton administration, where she supervised equal employment and education litigation. With the 2000 elections and the end of Clinton’s term, Norton was offered a position as a visiting faculty member at the Wyoming College of Law.
“I guess you could say that the change in administration made possible a career change for me,” Norton said. “At the time, I thought that academia would offer a rewarding and enjoyable transition for me as I figured out what to do next. But the longer I taught, the more I found that I loved it, and the harder it became to leave. I finally decided to make academia my long-term career.”
In coming to CU, Norton hopes to draw on her experiences from both the classroom and the real world to help her teach.
“I think I bring a range of diverse experiences from both inside and outside academia that, in turn, inform my enthusiasm for the study and practice of law and public service,” Norton said.
Dayna Matthew, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs in the CU Law School, also voiced excitement over Norton’s real world experience coming into play in the classroom.
“We are excited to have Professor Norton because she is both an experienced and excellent classroom teacher, but also an experienced litigator,” Matthew said.
Like Norton, Cantrell plans to draw on her past experiences in the real world to help her in the classroom. Cantrell believes her experience outside of academia will help her accomplish the Law School’s mission of encouraging students to engage in public service.
“Public service has been an important part of my own legal career, and my scholarship thinks a lot about how lawyers participate in social change work,” Cantrell said. “I’m hoping to be a strong and consistent voice of public service to the students here, and for the greater community.”
Matthew cites Cantrell and Norton’s vast outside experience and history of strong teaching as reasons why they stood out over other candidates.
“These new professors won awards for teaching excellence at other law schools, so Colorado Law is especially excited to have them join us,” Matthew said.
Just a few weeks into her teaching career at CU, Cantrell already likes what she sees at the Law School. The professor immediately noticed the tremendous energy of the CU campus, especially at the Law School.
“The Law School is humming with activity, and it’s great to see the students congregated throughout the building catching up, studying, dressed up in suits for interviews and the like,” Cantrell said. “You can’t help but be caught up in the energy and I love it.”
Also impressed in the early-going by the CU campus is Norton, who in the true spirit of Boulder has taken to riding her bike to class.
“My colleagues and students have been fantastically welcoming,” Norton said. “And now, rather than spending two hours driving to and from work, I’ve got a beautiful 15-minute bike ride.”
Boulder has already left its mark on Norton and Cantrell. Now, the new professors appear poised to return the favor.
As it has been also for Cantrell, the transition into teaching has been rewarding to Norton. In 2007, Norton was honored as the Outstanding Teacher of the Year at the University of Maryland, while Cantrell received Yale’s teaching excellence Award in 2006. Considering the passion with which the two professors approach their work, it’s no surprise they garnered such prestigious awards.
“I’m a committed anti-poverty advocate and I love teaching,” Cantrell said when asked what she would do if she never had to work another day in her life. “Even if I didn’t have to work, I’d still teach law and find ways to advocate to reduce poverty.”
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Brian Beer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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