Celebrating 20 Years of the Law, Science, and Technology Minor

Posted January 18, 2023

Twenty years ago, Jennifer Collins graduated from Georgia Tech with a bachelor’s degree in History, Science, and Technology and a minor in Law, Science, and Technology. While the former has served her well, it’s the minor that turned out to be more closely aligned with the path she would take in life — that of an attorney. 

“Coming out of college, my minor highlighted that I had already committed to a legal career and gotten additional exposure that would better help me jump on the learning curve,” said Collins, the first Georgia Tech student to receive the distinction. 

Since then, hundreds of students have taken advantage of what is now called the Minor in Law, Science and Technology (LST) and the program that surrounds it, said Chad Slieper, a 2002 School of Public Policy alumnus and the program’s director. 

“The LST minor has always been an amazing way to add even more value to a Georgia Tech degree,” Slieper said. “And as technology and law become ever more interconnected, it’s an opportunity that has never been more relevant than it is today, on its 20th anniversary.” 

Next week, the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, the School of Public Policy, and the LST program will commemorate that anniversary with a celebration at the Alumni House. Roberta Berry, associate vice provost for undergraduate education, will be among the guests. Berry developed the minor as a faculty member in the School of Public Policy. Also attending is Leigh May, a U.S. District Court judge and professor of the practice in the School of Public Policy. May teaches constitutional law to LST students. 

The event is open to everyone. 

Expanding Georgia Tech’s Reach in Science, Technology, and Society 

Berry recalls meeting with a “small but energetic” crew of Georgia Tech pre-law students soon after her arrival at Georgia Tech in 1999 to chart a future for the program, which she had taken over following the death of founding director William Read. 

“The shared sense at the time was that law was viewed as an eccentric career aspiration at Georgia Tech and that it wasn’t easy to find information, support, and encouragement for pursuing that aspiration, let alone coursework to help prepare for law school and future careers in law,” Berry said. 

“The dream of a minor percolated and gradually evolved, in that Georgia Tech way, into a we-can-do-that goal. There followed the Georgia Tech way of doing that, a collaborative effort spanning students determined to see it through; a network of alumni attorneys who gave bountifully of their time and counsel; the support of School of Public Policy faculty who believed in the value of a pre-law curriculum; and the championing by leadership — in the School of Public Policy, the Ivan Allen College, and at the Institute level—who saw the addition of a Law, Science, and Technology Minor as part and parcel of Georgia Tech’s expanded reach and impact at the intersection of science, technology, and society. 

“Now, 20 years later, the minor is part of a thriving Law, Science, and Technology Program, and, thanks to great program leadership and continuing collaborative support, Georgia Tech is a great place for aspiring lawyers to learn and grow,” Berry said. 

“A Peek Behind the Curtain” 

While the goal of the minor has always been to help students decide if a career in law is right for them and to help them excel in law school, the curriculum has evolved over the years. 

Initially, students had to take two core Public Policy courses and had 20 elective classes from which to choose. They now can choose from four core course offerings and 40 electives offered by the College of Computing, the Scheller College of Business, and several schools in the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts. They range from MGT 4010 — Business Taxation to PHIL 3113 — Logical and Critical Thinking, many with significant emphasis on the legal aspects of technology and the environment. 

Gabriel Armstrong, a fourth-year Computer Science student, is a teaching assistant for one of the electives, PUBP 4726 — Privacy, Technology, Policy, and Law. He expects to graduate in May with the LST minor and believes it’s valuable even for those not considering a career in law. 

“The greatest achievement of the LST program is teaching students how to be ethical, law-abiding professionals,” Armstrong said. “The negative impacts of new technologies or policies aren’t always obvious, so it’s critical that professionals in all fields constantly consider the legal and ethical ramifications of their actions.” 

Collins, who went on to law school at the University of Georgia and now is a business litigation partner with Womble Bond Dickinson in Atlanta, said her experience studying for the minor, especially learning from practicing attorneys, was a huge advantage for her. 

“Being around lawyers and discussing the interplay of law with how everything works in the world ahead, you get a peek behind the curtain,” she said. “You see how lawyers use their presentation skills to educate and advocate, how they can exude confidence and humbleness. You can see that law practice is hard but can be really rewarding. These are nuances that, looking back, really started carving the outline for my career, and I have the LST program to thank for that.” 

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Jennifer Collins, HTS 2002, and computer science student Gabriel Armstrong. Collins was the first to earn the Law, Science, and Technology Minor. Armstrong will be one of the newest when he graduates in May. The minor turns 20 years old this year.

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Michael Pearson
Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts