Current Date: Tue, 11 Mar 2014 15:51:46 -0400
UNC law professor Donald Hornstein has taught UNC students many lessons — but the one that has made him famous is that the law is anything but dry.
Hornstein was one of 26 law professors featured in “What the Best Law Teachers Do,” published in August by the Harvard University Press.
Michael Schwartz, dean of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock law school, co-authored the book.
Schwartz said he began considering candidates five years ago before settling on 26 professors to profile.
“We wanted to study people who could demonstrate that they had an extraordinary long-term effect,” Schwartz said. “One thing (Hornstein’s) students said over and over again is that he was the best teacher they had ever had.”
In addition to his graduate courses, he teaches an undergraduate environmental law and policy class every spring, Environmental Studies 350.
“Very few law professors ever teach undergraduates — Carolina is one of the few places in the country where this happens,” Hornstein said.
Sophomore Anurag Angara took the course last year and said Hornstein was unique.
“(He) genuinely likes undergrads,” he said. “He thinks we have a lot of potential so he reaches out to us and offers us a lot of really cool opportunities.”
Hornstein also teaches a massive open online course, or MOOC, in environmental law, which has about 21,000 students. Hornstein said he works hard to keep the thousands of students engaged.
“He dresses down in a T-shirt for his normal lectures, but he puts on a tuxedo for his theory lectures,” said Heather Hillaker, a law student and teaching assistant for his MOOC.
Nicole Daniels, a teaching assistant for the MOOC, said Hornstein’s teaching style reflects his commitment to students.
“He’s willing to do whatever it takes to help people understand and engage,” she said.
Angara said Hornstein’s gift of storytelling makes the class engaging.
“He is the best storyteller I’ve ever heard. Usually he’ll offer anecdotes that are beautifully and vividly told,” Angara said.
Hornstein said he prides himself on preparing his students for the real world.
“The thing about law students is they are the ones who are going to step up. That’s what it means to be a lawyer. Whether somebody is in trouble in court or somebody wants to do something important in their lives … they are the ones people turn to,” he said.
Schwartz said he received an overwhelmingly positive response about Hornstein.
“These students talked about how much they not only enjoyed him as a teacher, but wanted to emulate him, wanted to be like him. That’s a pretty striking thing.”