Starting in fall 2021, Buffalo State College political science majors who aspire to study law after graduation will have a streamlined way to achieve that goal. The college recently approved a new bachelor’s degree program—a political science/law 3+3 combined pathway—between the Political Science and Public Administration Department and the University at Buffalo School of Law.
“The program is designed for students with a pretty strong idea that they want to pursue a law career,” said Patrick McGovern, associate professor of political science and public administration, who serves as coordinator of the 3+3 program. “It’s a sequence of core classes on a tight schedule that gets students up to speed with the research and skills they’ll need at UB Law. Legal writing, for instance, is a different style of writing, and our students will be exposed to it early on.”
Students who declare the public legal studies concentration within the major and the 3+3 program by the end of their freshman year will complete their major requirements in three years. Provided they maintain the grades and earn the entrance exam score required for acceptance into UB, they can start law school classes immediately after their junior year.
The beauty of the program is that it provides all the coursework a student will need to be successful in law school, while also saving time and money, said Kelly Frothingham, associate dean of the School of Natural and Social Sciences.
“The program also creates a nice synergy between Buffalo State and UB,” she added. “The 3+3 pathway program is just another way that Buffalo State is making upward social mobility a reality for its students.”
“The 3+3 pathway program is just another way that Buffalo State is making upward social mobility a reality for its students.”
By attending law school within the State University of New York (SUNY) system, students will also save money on their graduate education, which can be a pricey proposition at a private institution, McGovern noted.
“UB is the only law school within the SUNY system, so this is very attractive to students in our area,” he said.
Students who don’t choose the 3+3 program by the end of their freshman year can still follow the public legal studies concentration and apply to law school, but it will require the traditional four years, McGovern explained.
When members of the department started planning for the pathway program in 2018, they knew it would meet a need. The public legal studies concentration has the strongest enrollment within the political science B.A., McGovern said.
“When students get into it, they realize it’s a tremendous amount of work,” he said. “If they stick with it, maintain at least a 3.5 GPA, and get a solid LSAT score, they can be confident of admittance into UB and other law schools. Our students have been accepted to several competitive law schools throughout the Northeast and beyond.”
And the rigor of the Buffalo State program resulted in UB’s contacting Buffalo State about creating the 3+3 program, McGovern said. When Atta Ceesay, associate professor, became chair of the department in summer 2020, he said, “she lit a fire to make it a reality.”
With help from Frothingham and Scott Goodman, officer in charge of the School of NSS, the process picked up speed last fall. The College Senate, the provost, and the president approved the program in early 2021.
“Fortunately, we don’t need to hire new faculty,” McGovern said, noting that the department already has one professor with a law degree and one who attended law school and specializes in public legal studies, as well as two lecturers who are practicing attorneys.
In the long run, Cessay said, the 3+3 program will help the department expand its offerings and be more attractive to prospective students, much as it’s doing with the new 4+1 accelerated pathway to the master of public administration (M.P.A.) degree. It allows undergraduates majoring in political science and other subjects to take select graduate-level coursework toward an M.P.A. their senior year.
“By meeting the needs of our students and increasing the quality of our offerings,” Cessay said, “we’re going to attract more individuals to Buffalo State.”