By Sheila Pursglove
Caroline Bruce-Erickson knew she wanted to be a teacher as early as her high school years, with a career goal of teaching French. With the excellent training she received as a fifth-year high school student in French at East Lansing High School, she placed into the third year college level at MSU as a freshman.
Then fate lent a hand.
"The teaching field was overcrowded and I soon took a class that changed my life--business law," says Bruce-Erickson, an adjunct professor at Michigan State University College of Law.
After receiving her undergrad degree from MSU, she earned her J.D. from Wayne State University Law School - and followed her attorney father into a legal career.
"I guess you can see why I was thrilled after my three years at Wayne State University to return to MSU and hopefully engage the students there in my love for the law by teaching business law for the College of Business," she says.
After 18 months of teaching at MSU, she turned down a tenure stream assistant professorship with the University of Alabama to take a position with the state of Michigan that eventually led to 10 years as an administrative law judge (later a magistrate) with the Department of Labor hearing workers' compensation cases at varying locations around the state.
"I was very happy in this job - I loved the subject matter, enjoyed holding hearings and found the individual cases interesting," she says.
She also worked as an Administrative Law Specialist with the Workers' Compensation Appellate Commission.
A member of the State Bar of Michigan Master Lawyers Section, Social Security Lawyers Section, and Workers' Compensation Section, Bruce-Erickson now shares her expertise by teaching about workers' compensation law at MSU Law, joining the faculty after the former Detroit College of Law moved from Detroit to East Lansing.
"I've enjoyed teaching at the law school where the students are very bright, motivated and from many walks of life," she says. "Workers' compensation law is changing and this is a challenge but I really enjoy sharing my love of this area of labor law with these great young people."
Over the years, she has seen the student body at MSU Law change from a mostly Michigan-based one to one of great variety, both in geographical origin of students and in the age of students, with a percentage having established prior careers. And while her students include professional teachers wishing to leave their jobs to study law, Bruce-Erickson has also seen the flip side--former lawyers leaving their profession to teach at the high school level.
Widowed with three children, she makes her home in Williamston, outside Lansing, where her twin sons are seniors and honors students at Williamston High School; one is a captain of the state finalist soccer team and a track and field athlete, the other is a captain of the tennis team, was a quarter finalist in No. 2 singles and was on the varsity basketball team that won the league title this year. Her daughter is junior at MSU in James Madison College where she is a lifeguard and teaches ballet for the "Live On" program, and has been on the Dean's List every semester.
"My children are third-generation Spartans and therefore the director of the MSU Alumni Association tells me I'm a major donor," Bruce-Erickson says with a smile.
Published: Mon, Jun 17, 2013