Friday, January 3, 2020


Yale Law Students Selected to Teach Undergraduate Seminars

Seven students at Yale Law School have been selected to teach undergraduate seminars in the Spring 2020 semester: Ximena Benavides, LL.M.’06, J.S.D.’21, Dwayne Betts, JD ’16, Ph.D.’22, John Gonzalez ’20, Nikita Lalwani ’20, Daniel Maggen, LL.M.’13, J.S.D.’20, Josh Rubin ’20, and Becca Steinberg ’20.

Benavides will teach “Social Critical Thinking Through the Arts,” a seminar in Timothy Dwight College. The course will challenge students to engage in thoughtful discussions about contemporary global social problems such as discrimination, immigration, feminism, and social movements using a visual thinking curriculum program in which students learn through observation and immersive attention to art work in the first seminar taught entirely at the Yale University Art Gallery. Benavides is a J.S.D. candidate at the law school and Fellow in Law at Schell Center for International Human Rights, writing on issues of healthcare policy, institutional design, and corruption. At Yale, Benavides is also affiliated with the Solomon Center for Health Law & Policy and the Information Society Project. Before law school, Benavides was a law professor in Peru for over a decade and a legal practitioner both in New York and Lima. Her recent article, “Disparate Health Care in Puerto Rico: A Battle Beyond Statehood,” is forthcoming in the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Law and Social Change

Betts will teach “Social Justice and Violence in the Everyday: How Writers Notice,” a seminar in Davenport College. The course is an exploration of ethnography not only as a research tool but also a writer’s trait, considering ways in which imaginative writing is a product of what the writer notices. Betts is a Yale J.D., now enrolled in Yale’s Ph.D. in Law program at the law school, an American poet, memoirist, and teacher, writing and advocating for the reform of the criminal justice system. Betts’ work has led him to be appointed by President Obama to the Coordinating Council of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Betts has authored several award-wining works generating national attention, including a memoir, A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison, and his widely-praised poetry, including a recently published and highly-praised poetry collection titled Felon, in addition to his legal scholarship. In October 2018, the New York Times Magazine published Betts’ long essay, “Getting Out,” which was awarded a National Magazine Award.

Maggen will teach “Making Criminals: Criminalization in the 21st Century,” a seminar in Saybrook College. The course will introduce students to the fundamental principles of criminal law and legal reform, and explores how different categories of criminalization stand to be affected by contemporary social and technological changes. Maggen is currently a J.S.D. candidate at the law school, writing on issues of legal theory and criminal law. Before starting his LL.M. at Yale Law School, Maggen was a Senior Law Clerk at the Supreme Court of Israel. His recent Article, “Conventions and Convictions: Toward A valuative Theory of Punishment,” is forthcoming in the Utah Law Review.

Lalwani and Rubin will co-teach “Speechwriting, Storytelling, and Statecraft,” a seminar in Berkeley College. The course is a survey of the many ways of writing about foreign affairs, focusing in particular on speechwriting, foreign correspondence, and policy memo-writing. Lalwani is a former journalist who reported from India for The Wall Street Journal and worked as a staff editor at Foreign Affairs. Before law school, Rubin served as a speechwriter and special assistant at the State Department, where he worked on Secretary of State John Kerry’s staff. At Yale Law School, Lalwani and Rubin were co-presidents of the National Security Group, and both were selected as Associate World Fellows.

Gonzalez and Steinberg will co-teach “Teaching the Constitution,” a seminar in Pierson College. The course will grapple with how constitutional law affects millions of public-school students every day. As part of the course, Yale undergraduate students will engage with New Haven public high school students, delivering lessons in classrooms and reflecting on constitutional pedagogy and how to improve civics education in the U.S. Before law school, both Gonzalez and Steinberg served as teachers and Teach for America corps members. Gonzalez taught eighth-grade math in New Orleans, and Steinberg taught middle school English in the Mississippi Delta. At Yale Law School, Steinberg and Gonzalez serve as co-directors of the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project, supporting law school students who teach constitutional law at three New Haven high schools and organizing moot court competitions for local high school students at the law school.

These seminars were selected as part of Yale’s Residential College Seminar Program, which gives students the opportunity to take innovative courses that fall outside of traditional departmental offerings. Some seminars are taught by Yale faculty; others by non-academics, including writers, artists, journalists, and politicians. The instructors are appointed lecturers in Yale College. 

A defining feature of the Residential College Seminar Program is that undergraduates play a central role in the seminar selection process. Each of Yale’s 14 residential colleges has a student committee responsible for evaluating seminar proposals and interviewing candidates. On rare occasions, advanced Yale graduate students in the final year of their graduate careers may be selected. College seminars led by law students have been greatly successful, often receiving 50 to 60 student applications for just 18 spots in each, said Gordon Silverstein, Assistant Dean for Graduate Programs at the Law School. “Teaching these courses is a prized opportunity” and our students and their courses “survived a rigorous review and selection process,” Silverstein added.