FIU expands law school curriculum with addition of mental health, environmental policy professors

by | Oct 31, 2022

  • The Florida International University College of Law added three new assistant professors to its faculty this week
  • Taleed El-Sabawi, John (Alex) Erwin, and Amber Polk were announced as the additions
  • The trio, who collectively specialize in mental health and addiction policy and environmental law, will help expand the scope of curriculum offerings within the program 

The Florida International University (FIU) College of Law expanded the scope of its curriculum this week by adding a trio of assistant professors specializing in mental health and addiction policy and environmental law.

Taleed El-Sabawi, John (Alex) Erwin, and Amber Polk were announced on Friday evening to be joining FIU’s law school as faculty members and will work to expand scholarship and curriculum in their respective fields. 

El-Sabawi specializes in the use of qualitative and quantitative methods to analyze texts, including congressional hearing testimony, regulations, legislation, news media, political speeches, and interview transcripts, according to a university statement.

“My research looks at how policy change is achieved. What motivates legislators, how numbers are used to influence policy, and what stories we tell with the data,” she says. 

Erwin, who specializes in environmental law and natural resources law, adds to a field that has growing importance in Florida. State leaders and lawmakers are more frequently turning to environmental policy experts to help craft new regulations and bills.

Similarly to Erwin, Polk’s research focuses on rights-based environmentalism as a legal, political and moral movement. A former teaching fellow at Stanford University’s law school, Polk will contribute to the establishment of environmental law studies at FIU.

“A lot of science goes into policy decisions, but there’s more to it than that,” says Polk. “There’s often a temptation to make environmental policy decisions by relying exclusively on scientific data and some form of cost-benefit analysis, but there are other normative factors to be considered, such as matters of fairness, which neither can address.” 

The additions represent a growing university-wide initiative to bolster research and curriculum efforts. Additions to curriculum capabilities will help the FIU law school continue to rise in national rankings. Presently, FIU Law is a top-100 law school nationwide, and trails just three in-state institutions — the University of Florida, Florida State University, and the University of Miami — in statewide ranking metrics.

“FIU Law is delighted to have these three accomplished teachers and scholars join us. They each have a proven record of success and their work will make vital contributions to our students and South Florida and beyond,” said Antony Page, dean of the law school.  

FIU law graduates earned the highest passage rate of all state law schools on the Florida bar exam this year, marking the eighth consecutive year the university attained the feat.

81.2 percent of FIU school of law graduates passed the bar exam during its most recent administering. With the most recent results, more than 88 percent of FIU law graduates have passed the bar exam on their first attempt – the highest passage rate of any Florida law school since 2015.

“This year’s graduates overcame many unusual challenges during their law school experience, and they should all be commended for their resilience,” said FIU Law  Page. “They did so with a poise that served them well for the remainder of their studies and will continue to serve them well in their professional endeavors.”


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