Nick Schroeck on Teaching in China

By Steve Thorpe

Legal News

This fall Wayne State University Law School began offering a master of laws degree in U.S. law for foreign lawyers and law students. The new program will prepare international students with a solid grounding in the U.S. legal system for careers in government work, business, academia or private practice. Nick Schroeck is a Wayne Law assistant (clinical) professor. He is also director of the Transnational Environmental Law Clinic at Wayne Law and executive director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center. As part of a faculty exchange, he recently arrived in China for a month of teaching at the Northwest University of Politics and Law in Xi'an.

Thorpe: How's your Mandarin?

Schroeck: Not very good! I picked up a few phrasebooks before my trip, and I have been working with my student assistants on some basic communication. I have found the students and people in general to be very welcoming and to patiently try to understand what I am saying. A smile, saying hello and thank you in Mandarin seems to go a long way.

Thorpe: Tell us about the new master of laws in U.S. law program.

Schroeck: The program is designed to open doors to employment to international students either in their country of origin or in the United States. The U.S. LL.M. program at Wayne Law seeks to increase understanding of our legal system, so that the students can compete in our increasingly global world. There are a few introductory courses offered exclusively to foreign law students and then they also have the opportunity to learn alongside our J.D. students in other courses.

Thorpe: What sort of content are you teaching as part of your faculty exchange in China?

Schroeck: At the Northwest University of Politics and Law, I am teaching an international environmental law course. I lecture three times a week, twice to undergraduates who are interested in environmental law and studying abroad in the U.S., and also to third-year law students who are specializing in environmental law. The course offers a background and history of environmental law, as well as discussion of modern statute-based environmental law and a focus on international treaties and agreements aimed at addressing water resource management and global climate change.

Thorpe: China is paying a lot more attention to environmental issues recently. Are they interested in how the U.S. has handled the legal aspects?

Schroeck: Yes. I have found the students wanting to learn more about our history of creating, solving and still working to solve many environmental concerns. In my first class they were very interested in strict liability as a way to address pollution. China also is looking at ways to increase public participation in environmental decision-making, but that is still a work in progress.

Thorpe: You say that you will include material on emerging international trends in environmental law. What are some of those?

Schroeck: I am hoping to have a robust discussion around international agreements related to climate change. Obviously the U.S. and China are the big players in the climate change arena, and we need to work together toward lasting solutions. We also will devote a good portion of the class to a discussion of renewable energy. I will go over Michigan's positive experience with our renewable energy portfolio standard, and we will discuss the impressive strides China is making in regard to solar and wind energy. Both countries have a long way to go, to be sure, but there are some positive trends.

Thorpe: You will be teaching, but you will probably also be learning. What do you hope to bring back with you?

Schroeck: I have a limited understanding of the Chinese legal system, so I am excited to learn more about their environmental law and policy. I also am looking forward to learning more about legal education in China to see if there are some tools or strategies that I can take back to Wayne Law. And, perhaps most importantly, I am excited to learn more about Chinese culture, history and daily life, and to make some lasting friendships.

Published: Thu, Oct 30, 2014

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