Jeff Minneti earns Oltman honor for teaching excellence

September 18, 2019

Jeff MinnetiProfessor Jeff Minneti teaches criminal law and trusts and estates. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. He also teaches students mindfulness meditation techniques, leads discussions about what makes lawyers happy, and models civility for the entire Seattle U Law community.

"He looks at legal education holistically," said third-year student Nassor Salum. "This means that in addition to encouraging us to focus on our studies so that we can do well in our courses, he also encourages us to take care of ourselves physically, mentally, and emotionally."

This holistic approach has helped to earn Minneti the 2019-21 William C. Oltman Professor of Teaching Excellence honor.

Dean Annette Clark '89 commended Minneti's dedication to the art of teaching. "The Jesuit approach to education calls for care of the whole person, or cura personalis," she said. "Jeff embodies this concept in the way he sets high expectations, engages deeply with his students, and supports them in their passions and pursuits. He is a master educator, and he shares his insights, knowledge, and expertise with his faculty colleagues, such that we are all better teachers because of Jeff's presence among us."

The professorship, created to recognize the law school's best teachers, is named for Professor William C. Oltman, who retired in 2008 after 34 years of outstanding teaching in the areas of property and trusts and estates. Previous honorees include Professors Deborah Ahrens, Brooke Coleman, Sidney DeLong, Mark Chinen, and John Mitchell. 

An installation ceremony for Minneti will be held next year.

In addition to teaching, Minneti directs the law school's renowned Academic Resource Center, a team of academic support professionals who help students succeed throughout law school and on the bar exam by building their management strategies and study skills. 

"We all work to cultivate relationships with the students, and I draw heavily on the team," he said.

In particular, Minneti works with Access Admission Program students, who begin their law school careers with his summer criminal law class. One of his favorite moments every year is the end-of-summer reception, where he reassures these students that they're ready for the school year.

"Many of our students are first-generation law students. They don't know any other lawyers, and that triggers a sense of other-ism," he said. "I tell them we need them, that they belong here."

This reassurance is a hallmark of Minneti's teaching philosophy — that the legal profession must reflect the diverse society it serves, and for that to happen, law students need to come from all walks of life. As a former law student who struggled with whether to keep going toward his JD degree, Minneti remembers how valuable it was to receive encouragement from a professor.

"I hope I'm a better listener than I am a speaker," he said. "I want to be authentically approachable, to connect with the students. That's where the real value of teaching happens."

Minneti earned a BA from University of South Florida, an MBA from Samford University School of Business, and a JD cum laude from Samford's Cumberland School of Law. 

His scholarship focuses on two interests: the intersection of behavioral economics and environmental regulation, and the study of how students' preferences, choices, and behaviors affect their academic performance. A common theme across his scholarship is the study of decision making and decision architecture.

In some ways, Minneti's career has come full circle around to the first job he had when he finished his undergraduate studies. Though he eventually worked as a civil litigator and a judicial clerk, he started his professional life as an elementary and middle school teacher.

"Teaching is a calling for me," he said. "Most definitely a calling."