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Pamela Tibihikirra-Kalyegira is the dean of Uganda Christian University’s Faculty of Law

Ahead of the game

"The way law and legal ethics are being taught at Indiana has given me a lot of ideas I’m introducing here in Uganda. The Law School brought in real practitioners with real problems, which, for me, was really exciting. Indiana Law is way ahead of the game."
—Pamela Tibihikirra-Kalegira, Dean, Uganda Christian University Faculty of Law

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Pamela Tibihikirra-Kalyegira had her heart set on pursuing her SJD at a school like Harvard, Columbia, or Stanford. An outstanding student who had just earned her Master’s degree from the London School of Economics, she was "heartbroken" to learn the Fulbright fellowship she won would instead take her to Indiana Law rather than the Ivy League.

"The only things I could think of about the Midwest were farmers and cornfields," Tibihikirra-Kalyegira, SJD’09, said. "I couldn’t even find Bloomington on the map. I was not happy. I complained."

Years later, SJD in hand, Tibihikirra-Kalyegira has come to appreciate the opportunities and education she received through Indiana Law’s international programs. She is now dean of the Uganda Christian University Faculty of Law, the second woman to ever hold such a post in her native country.

Tibihikirra-Kalyegira is now putting into action lessons she learned at Indiana Law as part of the School’s innovative Legal Professions program.

"I was able to audit the Legal Professions course when it was first offered in 2007," she recalled. "The way law and legal ethics are being taught at Indiana has given me a lot of ideas I’m introducing here in Uganda. The Law School brought in real practitioners with real problems, which, for me, was really exciting. Indiana Law is way ahead of the game."

Tibihikirra-Kalyegira knew she’d end up in Uganda, but she had no idea her path back home would cut through Bloomington. Once she realized she could earn her SJD at Indiana Law in two years, and without having to do Master’s coursework, Tibihikirra-Kalyegira settled into Midwestern life.

"I met so many friends through international student ministries and at church," she said. "I was able to learn the culture from American families, and the professors were wonderful. Bloomington is the most conducive place to study. There are no distractions."

At Indiana Law, Tibihikirra-Kalyegira honed her research on how to improve the standards of Ugandan legal education. Using the American legal system as a backdrop, Tibihikirra-Kalyegira developed a dissertation that will likely have a wide impact on how future Ugandan lawyers are educated.

"Pamela’s history and assessment of Ugandan legal education will have a huge practical effect in her country and beyond," said Indiana Law Professor Aviva Orenstein. "Her study is a model for how our nations and cultures can retain their individual approaches to legal education while learning from America’s best practices and experience. Pamela’s work will reap tangible benefits for generations to come."

At Uganda Christian University, Tibihikirra-Kalyegira is now putting into action the ideas she developed and learned at Indiana Law. Of the 10 law schools in Uganda, only six are accredited. Uganda Christian University is one of the newest schools to offer a law program, meaning Tibihikirra-Kalyegira is building what could become one of Africa’s premier legal institutions from the ground up.

"There is so much to be accomplished, but I’m excited for the opportunity," she said. "It’s going to be an uphill process. Whenever you come in and propose changes to the system, you have to build up a lot of confidence because you’re trying to change a lot of people’s minds. Not very many women have advanced degrees in Uganda, and there’s only been one other female law dean in the country. It’s extremely exciting to be in this position."

After spending two years apart from her husband and two sons, Tibihikirra-Kalyegira is back home in Mukano, Uganda, taking what she learned at Indiana Law and making a difference in the lives of future lawyers, academics, and judges.

"I always wanted to stay at home," she said. "I wanted to come back and contribute. I’ve had an international education most students can only dream about. I feel that sense of obligation. I need to be here."

Every year, Indiana Law admits more than 60 students from around the world who come to study at one of the largest international programs in the Big Ten. The School has offered international degrees for more than a century, preparing students to launch successful careers no matter where they go from Bloomington. Taught by the same renowned faculty as JD candidates, international students find Indiana Law to be a home away from home.

"I had a wonderful experience at the Law School," Tibihikirra-Kalyegira said. "It’s a great environment, from my fellow students, to the outstanding faculty who saw me as a colleague."