Reprinted with permission. For profiles of all five of this year's recipients, go to the Fall 2016 edition of the William & Mary Alumni Magazine.
Every year, the William & Mary Alumni Association honors a select group of outstanding young faculty members with Alumni Fellowship Awards. We hope you'll agree that these faculty members represent William & Mary at its very best.
Tara Leigh Grove
Professor of Law and Cabell Research Professor
Tara Grove remembers the exact moment she decided to enter the field of law. “My sixth-grade English class used one of the more gory editions of the ‘Three Little Pigs’ in which the pigs cooked the Big Bad Wolf,” she says. “I was acting as a defense attorney for the third little pig. My team argued a theory of self-defense. It was a bit of a stretch, but we actually won the case.”
That early school experience piqued her interest. In college, Grove not only decided to pursue law as a career but also resolved to teach constitutional law in a university setting.
“Teaching is the single most important part of what I do,” says Grove, who joined the William & Mary Law School faculty in 2011. She maintains an open-door policy when it comes to office hours, where students can come if they have questions about the reading, career advice or even personal problems.
In the classroom, Grove asks a lot of questions with a lecturing style that works to foster discussion. Rather than call on one or only a few students, she questions people using the popcorn method. “This means I move around and no one is on the spot for too long,” says Grove. “This approach helps ensure that everyone is prepared every single day while also ensuring that people won’t be on the chopping block.” For Grove, the most rewarding comments on course evaluations are from students who had been terrified to speak in class, but were later grateful for the practice. “You need to be able to respond on the spot with a cogent answer. The practice makes speaking less of a big deal. Eventually, students get more relaxed about it.”
Grove also teaches her students the value of different perspectives, as often the law is about interpretation. “I encourage them to embrace the uncertainty, since the Constitution does leave room for disagreement,” she says. “The lack of clarity means that people from different perspectives can owe their allegiance to it. I think that is why the document has stood the test of time as a symbol of our nation.”
The Wren Building. “It symbolizes W&M’s age, rich history and traditions. Dating all the way back to George Wythe, St. George Tucker and Thomas Jefferson, the Wren Building serves as a reminder of judges and attorneys that walked here before me.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren was Grove’s professor in law school. “She was the kind of professor I wanted to be. Her students were her No. 1 priority.”
This year's honorees also include John Lombardini, Barkley Associate Professor of Government; Christopher A. Freiman, Associate Professor of Philosophy; Kristin L. Wustholz, Associate Professor of Chemistry; and Pieter Piers, Associate Professor of Computer Science. Learn more.
About William & Mary Law School
Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School in 1779 to train leaders for the new nation. Now in its third century, America's oldest law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.