Louisiana higher education executive studying law

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (AP) – The leader of Louisiana’s largest university system has a new hobby during his off hours, pursuing a law degree.

The president of the University of Louisiana system, Jim Henderson, attends evening law classes at the Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge and has reached his second year in the program. He’s taking 11 credit hours this semester – all on Zoom – from his kitchen table. Classes are Tuesday and Thursday evenings and a few hours on Saturdays.

“This is a personal pursuit, not a professional one,” Henderson told The Acadiana Advocate.


The head of the nine-campus university system with more than 90,000 students hopes to complete his part-time law program in three or four years.

“I keep my other obligations in mind,” said Henderson. “That’s the beauty of the part-time program and how Southern put it together.”

Not that it wasn’t a challenge.

Henderson had to drop out of a class in the fall of 2020 when Hurricanes Laura and Delta wreaked havoc on many campuses in his system, with the worst damage at McNeese State University in Lake Charles.

Law Center Chancellor John Pierre said Southern welcomes students from busy backgrounds, such as former Governor Mike Foster, who attended law school during his tenure.

“Evening law students balance work, family and everything in between,” Pierre said. “But (Henderson) does it successfully. In the spring of 2021, it was off to a good start then COVID (variant) hits. We had to make some schedule adjustments, get it out of its normal cycle. We made him spend the summer. He is fine, very well.

Henderson, who ran the UL system for five years, began his law school journey with the encouragement of two women: Ashley Mitchell-Carter, alumnus of the Southern University Law Center and former director of government affairs for the UL system. , and 28-year-old Henderson’s wife, Tonia.

Mitchell-Carter was “the impetus” to get it started, he told the newspaper. Henderson said he would challenge Mitchell-Carter in conversations about legal issues. In turn, she encouraged him to pursue legal studies and told Pierre that she thought Henderson might be interested.

The young lawyer passed away suddenly on a vacation weekend in 2019. When Henderson consoled his mother, she told him, “She really wanted you to study law.” He later mentioned his desire to go to law school to his wife, who replied, “Why don’t you do it? That was all the encouragement he needed.

At present, Henderson does not consider himself a career in the practice of law.

“It’s not the driver,” he said. “It’s about the process. I am inclined to read – a lot – and it helps me in my current job. He develops a critical mind. It made me more effective as a leader.

But he said providing pro bono work for people who can’t afford a lawyer might one day be a possibility.


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