Making a Priority of Keeping Healthy, Fit and Sane in Law School


As third-year law student Erika Pagano strolled across the Purple parking lot onto the Bricks the other day, she was less than thrilled to be spending another early morning at the law school – until she realized that it was the first day of Wellness Week and she could land a free massage just by showing up. "A mid-morning chair massage was the perfect way to start my day," Pagano said, echoing the sentiments of other Miami Law students who enjoyed the many perks available to them during Wellness Week.

Hosted by the AskUs Post Graduate Student Service Fellows and the Office of Academic Affairs and Student Services, Wellness Week, now in its sixth year, included events such as kickball on the green, a green-tea cooking event, a Krav Maga demonstration by Miami Law Professor Mary Anne Franks, a smoothie give-away, a pet-a-puppy session, and a series of instructive lunchtime panels.

Justin Edell, a third-year Student Bar Association Senator and the 2012-2013 Dean's Cup Chair, said after participating in the kickball event that it "got people moving around in a fun and relaxed environment while raising awareness about physical exercise."

Staff members from the Patti and Allan Herbert Wellness Center on campus also helped to disseminate the stay-healthy message as they fielded questions and gave advice on the Bricks during the week. The center's director, Norman C. Parsons Jr., had nothing but good things to say about the law school's Wellness Week initiative. "Knowing how stressful and demanding law school can be and knowing the benefits of nutrition, exercise and managing stress, it's our intention to give students adequate information so they can adjust their lifestyles to find time to care for themselves," he said.

In response to students' comments about not having enough time to work out, Parsons said, "We have to be a little selfish with wellness – we have to make it a priority."

Having found a way to successfully tackle law school challenges and maintain a strict workout regimen and healthy diet while in school, alumnus John Ainsworth, JD '12, joined Dean of Students Janet Stearns and second-year students Christina Sava and Bridget Schultz on a lunchtime panel titled "Performing Under Pressure." When asked how he felt about the law school's wellness initiative, Ainsworth remarked that it "reminds us all that in order to perform at a high level, we need to take care of our minds and our bodies."

"There's going to be hard times," Ainsworth said during the panel discussion. "What can get you through that is understanding why you're here. It's understanding that you can't learn everything."

While he was in law school, Ainsworth said, he made point of taking half an hour or an hour every day "to do something I liked." His advice: "You need to make that time."

Sava, a certified yoga instructor and president of a student organization called the Insightful Mind Initiative, agreed on the need to set priorities. "It can be really overwhelming," she said of the law school experience. "I'm going to do my best ... but even if I don't meet all my expectations, it's not the end of the world."

As part of her goal to "enjoy the process," as she put it, and ensure that others do too, Sava holds a weekly free class called "Yoga on the Green," open to all University of Miami students. Those sessions take place outside the Otto G. Richter Library on Thursdays at 5 p.m.

Schultz, a 2L Student Bar Association senator and an avid runner, urged the audience to "keep doing what you love to do" while in law school, whether it's running, yoga or any other physical activity. She recalled that during her first semester, she was so absorbed in classwork that she "pretty much gave up on training" – a mistake she vowed not to repeat.

More than 200 students attended the various Wellness Week events, made possible by the Mitchell Rosen Fund and the Law Activity Fee Allocation Committee.