With the stresses of law school bearing down on them, law students know there is always at least one person they can depend on to go to for help.
Assistant dean Leah Terranova has made an impact on students since she joined the School of Law at the University of Kansas in 2012. She started in her position in July.
“There’s been a tangible change in the environment since she took on her role and started implementing more mental health resources,” second-year law student Corrine Moffett said.
Terranova draws from personal experience to assist students who are facing the pressures of succeeding in law school.
Terranova said she was heavily involved in arts and performance and didn’t think much about being a lawyer at first. However, after getting her undergraduate degree in English literature and dance at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, she enrolled in law school.
She ended up going to law school at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, and said she uses her encounters with the difficulties of studying law, especially in her first year, to help students.
Terranova said students are more likely to encounter anxiety and stress in law school than when they’re undergraduate students because of the workload, so she wants to be a voice in students' ears that can push them past the struggles.
Terranova also said that each student in law school knows how well they’re doing in class with a ranking system, which adds more pressure.
“Students put an enormous amount of pressure on themselves to do well. It’s a very competitive environment here because we grade a class on a curve,” she said.
Terranova also said she likes to keep an open door policy for students in her office as well as with the mental health initiative she advocates. Along with that, she said there are no ordinary days in her professional life.
“An average day is never average,” Terranova said.
She said she gets anywhere from 5 to 15 students or faculty a day. However, she said it’s difficult to make a planned schedule because it’s hard to make time for potential setbacks students or faculty could encounter.
Terranova said she also does committee work to help students with disabilities and with mental health.
“I was looking for something to do that would hopefully connect me to students because I loved the idea of being in a culture and a community where you could really effect change,” Terranova said.
Diana Jarek, a third-year student at the University’s School of Law, said Terranova has done well in her mission to provide students with guidance.
“Law school is typically a toxic environment and Dean Terranova does a really great job of telling us to prioritize our mental and physical well-being,” Jarek said.
Blake Wilson, assistant director for instructional & faculty services for the University's School of Law, said Terranova makes students feel better about their stress in law school. He also said her efforts especially help first-year law students.
“Our goal here is to make it so that people feel free to come in and talk, and Leah has really facilitated that,” Wilson said.