Beyond the Law School: New Title, Old Role
Longtime Associate Dean for Students Gail Sasnett has two additions to her title — Professionalism and Community Relations — and she hopes they will help her guide students toward rewards inherent in both. Sasnett is widely known as a cheerful, energetic and concerned student-advocate, but few are aware of her commitment to volunteer activities — including child-advocacy, women’s advancement, substance-abuse rehabilitation and legal professionalism. She is an advocate of the Guardian Ad Litem Program, which provides court-appointed “Guardians” to advocate for a child’s interests in dealing with parents, foster parents and governmental entities. “I encourage all law students to become Guardians,” said Sasnett. “The program needs volunteers, and it’s a great way to get into court. Most cases don’t last as long as my first one.” Sasnett’s first case was an infant removed from her home after a sibling died from “Shaken Baby Syndrome.” The case is still unsolved, and the child was put into foster care and eventually adopted, ending what had become a five-year responsibility for Sasnett. Her involvement with Kiwanis Club of Gainesville, where she served last year as its fourth woman president, also involves children. “The club’s motto is ‘Young Children Priority One,’” she said. Partnering with the City of Gainesville, Kiwanis is spearheading “Safety City,” a child-sized town in East Gainesville where children are taught about safety and common accident sources such as bicycling, crossing streets, gas and electricity. Sasnett has worked toward the advancement of women as past president and longtime board member of the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL), and last year joined the board of Women for Wise Growth, a local organization that studies growth issues and seeks to balance the county’s diverse interests. “There’s something wonderful about working with women to better the community,” said Sasnett. She recently joined Leadership Gainesville, a several-month-long program that introduces community leaders to the city’s inner structure. “It’s a good way for me to help integrate the law school with the rest of the community,” she said. “It’s also educational; there are many resources and channels people are not aware of.” She also has been active in Florida Lawyers Assistance, Inc., which assists lawyers with substance- abuse problems, and has helped expand the drug-court movement — what she calls Therapeutic Jurisprudence. “We shouldn’t criminalize people who are sick,” Sasnett said. “We need to focus more on rehabilitation.” In her “spare time,” Sasnett as president of the Counsel of University Neighborhoods (CUNA) helped defeat a proposal to turn SW 2nd Avenue into a one-way street; chairs UF’s Transportation and Parking Committee; and serves on the Regional Transit Services Citizens Advisor Board and two Florida Bar committees: Professionalism and Student Education, and Admissions to the Bar.