Professor Tara Helfman Named United Methodist Scholar/Teacher of the Year

Posted on Monday 4/18/2016
Chancellor Syverud, Professor Helfman, Interim Dean Banks

Associate Professor of Law Tara Helfman was named Syracuse University’s 2016 United Methodist Scholar/Teacher of the Year. The Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church has sponsored the University Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award at Syracuse University annually since 1982 to recognize the teaching and scholarship of an outstanding professor. This award gives explicit emphasis to the dual nature of a faculty member’s responsibilities as a scholar or creative artist and a teacher.

Helfman teaches two first-year required doctrinal courses: "Contracts" and "Constitutional Law I." In both, she has offered students the option of forming small study groups that have standing weekly appointments with her. During the voluntary, non-credit meetings, students solve challenging legal problems under her supervision. The meetings help students to develop a deep and practical understanding of legal doctrine and cultivate strong analytical skills.

She has developed her own course materials to teach "International Law," striving to engage students as world citizens with a strong understanding of the international legal system. Diplomatic correspondence, speeches, video footage of Security Council meetings and press conferences, and news reports regarding international incidents are among the learning tools she uses. 

“Professor Helfman's decision to eschew the traditional approach to teaching international law and develop an innovative approach provides her students with a dynamic educational experience that assures that she will achieve her objective of producing engaging and critical world citizens. In other words, this is not your parents' international law,” says Christian Day, professor of law and associate dean for academic affairs. 

In 2011, Helfman started the 1L Faculty Mentoring Program at the College of Law. First-year students meet with their designated faculty mentors for luncheons at various points during the academic year. At these luncheons, students and mentors discuss everything from study habits to summer job searches. The program is aimed at helping first-year student students settle into law school.