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The Source

Q&A with Martha Spence highlights 25 years of service

January 22, 2010

  • Pictured from left to right: Martha Spence (25 years of service), Maarit Reed (20 years of servic...
    Pictured from left to right: Martha Spence (25 years of service), Maarit Reed (20 years of service), Wendy Washburn (25 years of service), Mark Pietrok (20 years of service), Barbara Roady (20 years of service), Wanita McPherson (20 years of service), and M'Lou Growden (30 years of service).

This year’s staff recognition lunch honored 71 faculty and staff for their years of loyal service to the College. Martha Spence, associate dean for academic affairs, was honored for 25 years of service.  “I can’t imagine the law school without Martha,” said Dean Robert Klonoff. “She is truly wonderful.” The Source sat down with Martha to find out what makes her tick.

What is the best part of your job?           

Working directly with students. Law students are bright, motivated, and hard-working. I find them constructive and creative. They make me want to do my very best for them. In general, working at a small private academic institution with colleagues who share a sense of mission is very satisfying.

What did you aspire to be when you were a kid?

I aspired to be out of school as soon as possible, which makes it a little ironic that I’ve spent so much time working at one. When I was 10 or 11, I wanted to be a nurse, mostly because my favorite aunt was a nurse, and I wanted to be like her. In my teens, I thought being a psychologist would be interesting. When I finally got around to going to college in my late 20’s, I got a degree in economics – which I loved.

What do you do in your spare time?

I love movies, theater, live music performances—jazz, classical, and bluegrass—and reading. I’m in two book groups. I’ve been doing lots of yoga in the last two years and am liking that very much.

What can you share about yourself that might surprise some people?

I once jumped out of a plane with a parachute, and this year I’m taking acting classes.

If you were given an unrestricted budget and unlimited resources, what would the law school look like in five years?

With truly unrestricted resources, every student would have the funds necessary to go to school without borrowing money to do so. I would eliminate money as a key factor students need to consider when making decisions about their academic and future professional careers. If I had an unrestricted budget, I would use resources to expand the faculty to whatever size needed in order to allow faculty time for scholarship without cutting back on curriculum. I would also expand the number of clinical faculty in order to provide more clinical opportunities for students.

There are interesting conversations happening today about the changing nature of legal education. Whatever pedagogical shifts may occur, I believe that giving promising students the chance to shape their law school experience and determine their job choices without the pressure of loans as a driving force would make for a more vibrant law school experience for both students and faculty. I believe that expanding the faculty with resulting gains in opportunities for faculty scholarship and for clinical experiences for students would also enrich the law school experience for everyone involved. I would have a shuttle operation for all three campuses that would be so user friendly that we would be able to reclaim at least 1/3 of our parking spaces and use the area for Frisbee or lounge chairs or whatever. I would let people paint their offices, study carrels, or dorm rooms any color they wanted, and there would be lotteries to decide who got to choose colors for common public areas. Gray, beige, brown, and taupe would probably be prohibited colors. At any rate, they would be used sparingly.

What impresses you most about L&C as a whole?

The culture of collegiality among students and faculty. I believe faculty across all three campuses genuinely enjoy getting to know and interact with students. I think this is an immense benefit to students, as well as being a nice way to live one’s academic life.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Lewis & Clark has been and continues to be a vibrant and challenging place to work. Although I never intended to be an academic administrator, I’m very glad I took the opportunity when it was presented. The law school, the college of arts and sciences, and the graduate school have each individually and together shown that this institution is capable of positive change and growth. I have always loved the sense of forward movement and realization of potential that I feel here, and I am glad to be part of it.