January 23, 2008
For the third consecutive year, distinguished law professors from abroad will be bringing a foreign flavor to Georgia State University's College of Law.
Professors from Colombia, Denmark and Brazil will be visiting this semester as part of a course known as Comparative Growth Management Law, organized by the College of Law's Center for the Comparative Study of Metropolitan Growth.
According to the center's co-director, associate professor of law Colin Crawford, the course gives students not only an idea of the environmental laws in place in other regions of the world, but a glimpse of how legal systems outside the United States are constructed. Constitutions in South American and European nations, for example, are quite lengthy and inclusive, Crawford said, while the Constitution here is comparatively brief.
“Their constitutions have protections for the environment, and for all kinds of social and economic rights that are inconceivable in our order, so that's really a completely different way of thinking about the legal order and that's just the great use of this kind of comparative study for our students,” Crawford said.
Daniel Bonilla and Colin Crawford
The course can also be inspiring for the visiting professors, said Daniel Bonilla of the University of the Andes in Bogota, Colombia, who is leading the first two-week session of the semester. Bonilla has studied and lectured at Yale, Harvard, the University of Texas and a number of other American institutions, and is the author of a leading book on Colombia's 1991 constitution.
“Coming from other countries and teaching this course, interacting with students and with colleagues from Georgia State, we bring our experiences, but we learn from the experiences of students and professors, from conversations and interactions with them,” he said.
Between visits by foreign professors, students in the Comparative Growth Management Law class complete exams and work on papers. The next visiting professor is Brazil's Solange Teles, of the Federal University of Amazonas, in Manaus in the heart of the Amazon. Teles, who received her doctoral degree from the Sorbonne, also lectured widely in France.
Following Teles' visit, Ellen Basse of the University of Aarhaus in Denmark will serve as the final visiting professor of the semester. Basse is highly regarded for her work in drafting European Union laws that harmonize member nations' environmental policies.
Crawford says the visiting professors have been popular with students, and their presence will hopefully lead to connections and collaborations that might not otherwise be possible. Bonilla and Crawford, for example, are planning an applied learning program involving 10 other law professors from other nations that will include a visit to Brazil.
In previous years, professors from Canada, Poland, France and Germany have visited Georgia State to teach the class.
Crawford said professors visiting from overseas sometimes bring with them a different style of teaching, and meet students who are used to a different style of learning.
While professors from Brazil or Europe nations, for example, may be used to laying down a theoretical framework at the outset of a course, “U.S. law students are used to diving in immediately to actual situations and so there's sort of adjustment that has to go on on both sides,” says Crawford.
“Again, even for us as professors, that's an interesting experience and it's an interesting opportunity to have.”