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Indian and energy law programs featured in the press

Tim Thompson
Tim Thompson, assistant dean of TU Law’s online legal education program

The University of Tulsa College of Law offers master’s degrees in Indian and energy law online. The program was recently featured in an article in Tulsa Legal and Business News. The programs attract students from across the country who are currently working and would like to earn an advanced degree without going back to school full time. The full article is reprinted below from Tulsa Legal and Business News, writer – Ralph Schaefer.

Students from across the U.S. are working toward master’s degrees in Indian and energy law without physically stepping foot onto the University of Tulsa College of Law or into classrooms.

For that matter, the professors in far-off states don’t come to Tulsa either.

Both programs are part of the Online Master of Jurisprudence curriculum that makes it possible for people in Oklahoma and other states to upgrade skills in both disciplines, said Tim Thompson, assistant dean of the Online Legal Education program.

The programs do not lead to licenses to practice law or qualify students to take the state bar examination.

While Master of Jurisprudence in Indian Law has the most applicants, it also has a niche audience.

The target audience involves individuals working in Indian Country with tribes, tribal governments, businesses, family law, Indian natural resource law, land titles or gaming.

Energy law students include those seeking to advance their career or give themselves a better footing in the field.

“This is the sort of degree that makes a ‘nose hair difference’ between either job promotions or being caught by industry layoffs,” Thompson said.

The target audience is a working four-year degree holder who would like to earn an advanced degree but doesn’t want to give up their job, income source or leave the family.

Thompson makes it clear to applicants as they register that there is a live component to the curriculum where they meet with the professor online between six to eight times a semester for a live class.

These sessions are usually held during the evenings or on weekends, and scheduling is designed to accommodate the students.

A professor utilizes a video camera and students can interact, ask questions and form a virtual classroom, he said.

Thompson has taught an online energy class for the TU business school.

The setup is substantially the same as the traditional classroom, he said. Initially it was challenging, but once everyone was comfortable with the technology, a bond formed with the students and it was the same as teaching in a traditional classroom.

Online students might miss a class, but most professors record the session so individuals can catch up. Some professors are more lenient than others who might require full attendance.

All professors are, by contract, required to provide a course outline, but there is flexibility to adjust and update curriculum as events change.

“My professors regularly ask if they can update to keep things current, and we are supportive of them,” Thompson said. If there is a substantial topic shift, the professors are allowed to rebuild the course and are compensated accordingly.

The recent 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling involving the prosecution of Indians on reservations is an example.

No one knows what will happen, but the courts will outline the next step, he said.

Students enrolling in the Online Master of Jurisprudence in Energy Law want to upgrade their industry skills, especially involving regulations.