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Adjunct Faculty Put a New Spin on “Back to School”

“Adjuncts don’t teach for the money,” said Richard Pollak, WCL/JD ’83, a partner at national law firm Troutman Pepper. “We teach because we enjoy teaching and the dynamic with the students.”

Pollak is among a cadre of more than 400 adjuncts whose love of teaching takes them into the classroom at American University Washington College of Law. Starting this year, Pollak—who teaches secured transaction law, legal writing, and contract negotiation—joins a growing movement of adjuncts who are carrying their commitment even deeper.

They are showing their affinity for WCL by donating a portion of their adjunct faculty stipends.

A few years ago, a small group of adjuncts decided to donate back all or part of their salaries to WCL. With the school’s support, this group launched a campaign to raise funds to establish a scholarship at WCL.

Dean William Snape noted that the adjuncts, who “already give a lot through teaching,” are motivated by the strong sense of community at WCL. “I think some people become inspired by the idea of helping someone who wouldn’t otherwise be able to go to law school,” he explained.

Behzad Gohari
Behzad Gohari

Behzad Gohari, who teaches cross-border debt restructuring, is credited for starting the adjunct give-back movement to benefit students. Gohari said he considers “teaching to be the privilege of a lifetime.” “Every year, I learn more from my students. I think giving back to the WCL community is my way of saying thank you,” he said.

Pollak has recruited from the school for his firm and he champions his fellow alumni. “I always advocate for WCL students because I feel they get a really good education,” he said.

He added that his role as an adjunct professor has deepened his engagement with the school. “I’m very grateful for the education I got 38 years ago. Now I try to give back in different ways,” he said.

Scholarships are an essential ingredient of the excellence that WCL provides to its students, and the adjuncts have powered the give-back endeavor into a full-fledged endowed scholarship initiative.

“I feel that my salary is another way I can contribute,” Gohari said. “If this scholarship helps one more amazing student gain access to this storied institution, then that’s a small step to improve the bar.”

He noted that with over 400 adjuncts, even a $10 donation annually would help the scholarship meet its goal: $50,000 by 2024.

Snape said the adjunct give-back momentum is an exciting component of WCL’s forward journey.

“It’s about adjuncts adding further positive energy to the school. This is taking their teaching to the next level. Some adjuncts give because they are also alums, but others give even if they did not graduate from WCL,” Snape said.

“Every donation helps,” Snape added. “We are grateful to our adjuncts for the amazing work they do, and their contributions.”

You don’t have to be an adjunct faculty member to support the give-back momentum. Become a partner in the scholarship drive by making a contribution.