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Faculty Spotlight

Pouring Her Heart into the Foundation: Professor Ciji Dodds Brings Knack for Empowerment to Albany

Ciji Dodds

By Lauren Mineau

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Albany Law School Professor Ciji Dodds wasn’t just looking for a place to take the next step in her career. She was looking for a place to build a foundation—a strong professional and personal community. 

So far, the Capital Region has delivered.

Dodds joined the Albany Law School faculty in July 2019 after five years at the University of the District Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law. The switch from the hustle-and-bustle of a major U.S. city to the midsize appeal of Albany has been a welcome one, she said.

“I was looking for a place where I felt like I could find and develop a meaningful community. Both at work and outside of work, that’s very important to me,” she said.

Dodds teaches Intro to Lawyering, a yearlong foundational course that provides an overview of the legal system, details of the legal profession, and the basics of legal writing, clinical methodology, and other practical parts of legal practice.

Teaching 1Ls how to build a strong knowledge base is personally important to Dodds, who feels she would have benefited from more practical instruction while in law school. She hopes her students have the opposite experience.  

“I don’t want anyone to feel like they don’t know something or to feel intimidated by something,” she said. “I want my students to feel as prepared as possible. Sometimes in law school things are theoretical, then all of a sudden when you’re working, it’s much more real.”

Last summer, she participated in Albany Law School’s first pre-orientation program, Lighting the Pathway, which gave incoming students—1Ls from groups that are underrepresented in the legal profession—insight into the law school process before their first day of classes.

“We didn’t want them to feel like—in any way—that they were behind the curve by not being exposed to things in their everyday lives,” Dodds said.

Her passion for instilling confidence in people extends outside the law school. She served as a coach for Girls on the Run–D.C., a nonprofit that helps young women develop an appreciation for health while teaching valuable life skills. She also served on the board of directors of Aya, Inc., a mentoring organization for young women of color, and worked as a pro bono attorney for the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. She’s searching for the right place to do similar work in the Capital Region, perhaps with an organization that helps foster children.

Dodds finds motivation in helping people find what they are good at and what they are capable of, she said.  She sees several parallels in guiding both youngsters and young professionals.

“In both capacities, you’re trying to guide someone to make the best decisions and to help them to develop the decision-making skills. Now, it looks different as a kid than as a law student, but you’re still focused on empowering them and making sure they understand their own agency to make decisions and to feel secure in what they’re saying,” she said.