McGeorge Honors Innovative Law Professor

Adrienne Brungess

Adrienne Brungess received McGeorge's Hether MacFarlane Award for Innovative Teaching

On Dec. 4, 2020, University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law Professor Adrienne Brungess received the school’s Hether MacFarlane Award for Innovative Teaching. The award was given to Professor Brungess for her comprehensive integration of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion issues and materials into her classes this year.

“Even before McGeorge resolved to become an anti-racist law school, Adrienne decided to incorporate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity issues into her summer school Negotiations and Settlements course, a class where DEI issues typically would not be incorporated,” said McGeorge Professor Stephanie Thompson, who served on the faculty selection committee. “Adrienne put in a significant amount of work in a short period of time to become even more educated on critical race theory, how to incorporate DEI issues into any law school classroom, attending virtual conferences, and speaking to anyone and everyone from who she could better understand varying perspectives.”

The work to update her summer classes included developing a comprehensive unit on racial biases in negotiations. She also assigned foundational readings in critical race theory and assigned Harvard Implicit Association Tests. In class, Brungess moderated discussions on the realities of the justice system for people of color, the negative impacts of a settlement on a marginalized person or community, and how to mitigate those impacts.

Brungess also revamped her Global Lawyering Skills (GLS) I and II courses, pulling coursework from national headlines. In one writing assignment, students evaluated whether the McCloskeys – the St. Louis couple that brandished firearms at Black Lives Matter activists – acted in self-defense and contrasted their rights as homeowners with the rights of protestors and asked her students to engage the underlying injustices in the criminal justice system against people of color. Brungess incorporated substantial reading assignments on the lack of diversity on state and federal benches and the impact of the homogeneity of the judiciary on its credibility.

“It was important to me to incorporate DEI topics and materials into my classes because the students expressed enthusiasm about engaging in important discussions about how racial biases and discrimination impact the creation and practice of our laws,” said Brungess. “Additionally, the ongoing racial injustice in the U.S. seemed to demand that these issues be thoughtfully explored in the law school classroom.”

The Hether Macfarlane Award is named for McGeorge Professor Emerita Hether Macfarlane and is funded by McGeorge Dean Michael Hunter Schwartz and his wife, Dr. Stacey Hunter Schwartz. This fall, Dean Schwartz and Dr. Schwartz asked the faculty committee to focus on faculty whose innovations involved integrating DEI issues in teaching.  On winning the award, Professor Brungess said, “The fact that this award honors Hether Macfarlane makes it even more meaningful. Hether shepherded me into legal education and was my mentor and colleague for 16 years. Hether was a beloved professor and I feel honored to be chosen for an award that has her name on it.”