Dustin Jansen was preparing for a final job interview to become a law professor when he realized the value of connections made while a student at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law.
A 2006 graduate, Jansen developed great relationships with professors and fellow students during his time at the college. So as he prepared for the nerve-wracking “job talk” portion of the interview process in academia, he reached out to his environmental law professor Robert Adler to ask for a copy of a paper he had written in Adler’s water law course.
Adler, curious about why Jansen needed the old assignment, pressed his former student for details.
“And I told him,” Jansen recounted. “Professor Adler then asked me to come by and present to him at the law school. When I got there, he had gathered a bunch of professors and had me present to them all. The experience was overwhelming, but all the professors gave me great feedback and helped me have a great interview, even if I didn’t get the gig. Today, I share this experience a lot and people cannot believe how the S.J. Quinney College of Law stepped up to help me, even after graduation. I am forever grateful.”
These days, Jansen has found his niche in the academic world. He is currently employed as an assistant professor at Utah Valley University teaching American Indian Studies. He also performs pro bono work in tribal courts on the Navajo Nation and in Utah and works as a hearing officer for the Navajo Nation Office of Hearings and Appeals as part of a law practice in New Mexico.
“Law school had a huge influence on me,” Jansen said. “Because of the wonderful professors I had in law school, I developed a love for people and understand how the law impacts each of our lives. Great professors have also given me direction in how to approach my students. Because of this influence I care for my students, I want them to succeed, and I encourage them to help make our world better.”
Jansen initially gravitated toward a career in law in part because of the influence of Larry Echo Hawk, a 1973 College of Law alumnus who in 2009 became U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs.
“He said that law was the one thing every human being had in common and it was the forum where real differences could be made. For me, I wanted that difference to be made in Indian Country,” said Jansen.
Jansen passes on the inspiration he found to pursue a law degree to students he mentors at Utah Valley University. He reminds them that they can help a lot of people in most professions, but they can help entire nations with a law degree.
“Someone shared that with me once and I believe it still,” said Jansen.