Profs. Russell McClain and Maureen Sweeney named UMB Founders Week award winners

Every fall, the University of Maryland, Baltimore, selects four exceptional members from across the UMB community to receive Founders Week awards. Each of the honors represents outstanding accomplishment in one facet of UMB’s missionThis year, Prof. Maureen Sweeney is UMB Public Servant of the Year, and Prof. Russell McClain ’95 is UMB Educator of the Year. Award recipients will be honored during an online gala on Oct. 10. 

Educator of the Year Prof. Russell McClain is associate dean for diversity and inclusion and director of the Academic Achievement Program. His passion for teaching and education manifest in his classroom performance, his scholarship and research interests, and his administrative leadership. These qualities have led him to be regarded by his students and colleagues as a top teacher at Maryland Carey Law.  

His students in courses such as Bar Exam Preparation, Introduction to Contracts, and Commercial Law appreciate the genuine rapport he forges with them and his investment in their success. His colleagues appreciate his willingness to offer teaching guidance. McClain helped lead the law school’s summer series on improving faculty pedagogy for remote teaching due to COVID-19. 

McClain, who graduated from Maryland Carey Law in 1995, is passionate about increasing diversity in the law profession. As associate dean for diversity and inclusion, he helps develop and implement an inclusion and equity strategy by leading trainings, student recruiting, organizing diversity programming, supporting marginalized students, and managing crises. 

McClain is a leading expert on the impact of implicit bias and stereotype threat on the academic progress of students from groups traditionally under-represented in law school. His book, The Guide to Belonging in Law School was published in July by West Academic. He has earned a national reputation for his work and has given dozens of presentations and trainings. 

Public Servant of the Year Prof. Maureen Sweeney is director of the Maryland Carey Law Immigration Clinic. Through teaching, research, and public service, she has dedicated her career to helping society’s most vulnerable people. Since joining Maryland Carey Law in 2004, she has taught students to combine legal theory with practice and given them opportunities to help poor or marginalized members of the community who lack access to justice. 

Many prospective students identify the Immigration Clinic as a chief reason for applying to Maryland Carey Law, and current and former students rave about Sweeney’s teaching methods and mentorship. 

As head of the clinic, she works tirelessly on behalf of clients facing a range of legal issues that place their ability to remain in the United States in peril. Sweeney is highly respected for her innovative client advocacy and work on broader issues impacting immigrant communities, and she strives to educate the UMB community and the public at-large about these issues. 

Beyond the clinic, Sweeney has collaborated with nonprofits, argued cases before state and federal courts, and is an active member of several organizations that assist immigrants including the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, where she is a board member. 

This award adds to an impressive list of Sweeney’s honors, which include the 2019 University System of Maryland Board of Regents Faculty Award for Excellence in Public Service, the 2017 Public Service Award from the Hispanic Bar Association, and the 2016 Benjamin L. Cardin Distinguished Service Award from the Maryland Legal Services Corporation. She is a graduate of Yale Law School. 

Share this article