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Professor supports students through tough transition

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Valerie Valdez
Staff Writer

Thomas Allison, a new assistant professor of legal studies – and three-time University of La Verne alumnus – says his upbringing and his education have been the driving forces in all of his work and accomplishments.

Amid helping his community with legal representation, and beginning his tenure in the legal studies department in fall 2019, Allison has also had to adapt to a new online only world of teaching once the coronavirus pandemic hit.

“Teaching right now is both a gift and a curse,” Allison said.

With everything going on, Allison said, he sometimes feels he has become a therapist for his students.  They  need his support more than ever these days, he said.

The gift of teaching, he added, is that it motivates him to be attentive and offer quality instruction, as he observes his students’ ability to rise to challenges. In particular they’ve risen to the challenge of online learning.

“Let’s see what greatness we can accomplish,” Allison said.

Allison said he had never taught online before, so creating the online class material was difficult and knowing that not all students had a good connection made it more challenging to reach them.

“Nobody wants to go through this, but we have to show our resilience,” Allison said.

Although it has been difficult to work remotely, Allison decided to start a department wide project that provides different programs for the community to learn and create legal documents just like his students are doing.

Allison’s students said they admire the time and effort he puts in, and how dedicated he is to their learning.

“I really like the way Thomas sets up the courses,” said Jenna De Leon, junior legal studies major. “ I just feel like he actually cares.”

“He may be a tough teacher, but he understands what we’re doing. He doesn’t give us room to slack, he structures us,” said Elizabeth Roy, junior legal studies major.

Some students say they see him as a role model, who besides being a professor, fights for clients’ legal rights.

As a practicing lawyer, Allison also owns a non-profit organization known as the Social Justice Advocacy Project,  where he provides legal representation and advice on matters related to personal injuries, immigration, landlord/tenant problems, and civil litigation.

He is the president of ULV’s Black Alumni Affinity Group, and he has served as a debate and mock trial coach at the University as well.

“La Verne badgered me to success, being so closely affiliated to an institution like that has helped me come up,” Allison said.

Allison was raised in a single-parent household. He was a first generation college student, and had little in terms of material things growing up, he said. He said such challenges sometimes made him experience a sense of failure and hopelessness.

He credits the support he received as a University of La Verne student with keeping him striving.

It was through the connections he made at the University, he said, that he was able to begin both his legal practice and his non-profit organization.

He said he always felt respected when on campus because of the support of his professors, and the resources the University offered. He never considered any other college, he said because he values the University’s mission, which makes it like no other institution.

Valerie Valadez can be reached at valerie.valadez@laverne.edu.

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