1Ls Launch TALK Speaker Series to Build Community, Compassion Among Peers
By Jenny Whalen
May 3, 2013
TALK. It’s not an acronym, organizers say, but the mission of Michigan Law's new student-led speaker series.
Thomas Kadri, Daniel Dena, Kelly Fabian, Marcus Hoffman and Anne Recinos, all 1Ls, launched the weekly conversation series in March and, given their peers' positive response to the first three TALKs, plan to resume their initiative in the fall.
"Our goal from the start was to build the emotional intelligence of the law school community," Hoffman said. "Lawyers are reputed to be rigid and stoic, so this allows us to dig a little deeper. We all come here with tons of achievements, but that doesn't mean we aren't struggling on the inside."
Law students, the group says, have high expectations and feel the associated pressures acutely, which is why sometimes, "It's just powerful to have a conversation," Recinos said.
"We're building a community and what better way than to try to distill our most formative memories and share them with our peers?" she added.
Introduced to the concept of TALK by a friend at another university, Kadri brought the idea to his classmates where, over the course of several weeks, it evolved into its current form—30 minutes of "talk," during which the speaker shares a unique story or perspective, followed by a 15-minute question-and-answer session with the TALKer.
"The concept sounds streamlined, but in reality, it has been so different," Kadri said. "The TALKers have taken it and gone in three completely different directions. We were so fortunate to have three amazing TALKers to start."
Delving into the humorous, albeit awkward memories of youth figure skating, 1L Aaron Schaer led off the series March 27 with his TALK, "Triple Toe Oops: Aaron Schaer, 1L, on Figure-Skating His Way to Manhood and Masculinity ... Kind of."
The experience was therapeutic, Schaer said.
"It was awesome for me to tell my story about having real doubts," he said. "Law school didn't come to an end. People didn't think less of me. You can have flaws, but simultaneously be a respected member of the community. It took the stress away."
And what has proved to be an almost healing experience for the TALKers is nothing short of inspiring for the audience.
"Some of the most powerful moments are when the TALKer says something you don't expect to resonate with you," Kadri said. "You see parallels with what they've done and what you've been through and suddenly you realize what they're sharing could have meaning in your life."
The experience is that much sweeter for the TALK team, which meets with each speaker prior to his or her TALK for guidance and practice.
"To see them tell the story for the first time, and to be the first to hear it, is a privilege," Hoffman said.
"The thought and courage they put into their TALK is something to admire," Recinos added.
Although the group does not intend to install TALK as an official student organization, the team echoed Kadri's wish that the series become a "real tradition at Michigan that can endure" long after they graduate.
"I'm looking forward to it returning in the fall," Schaer said. "Hearing what other's 'pivot moments' were makes each moment potentially more meaningful. It takes down the general shield of law school."
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