Sally N. Fairbank
Sally N. Fairbank, professor and coordinator of Paralegal Studies at College of DuPage, has been named the Overall Outstanding Faculty Member for 2011-2012.
Representing the Business and Applied Technology Division, Fairbank will receive a $1,000 award from the College of DuPage Foundation, which annually recognizes outstanding teaching achievement at the College.
The Glen Ellyn resident has always been fascinated by the legal system. Fairbank earned a bachelor's degree in English from Northwestern University, a J.D. from Washington University in St. Louis and a master's degree in Education from Northern Illinois University. During and after law school graduation, she was a law clerk for a state appellate court judge in St. Louis. She then moved to Chicago and worked as an associate defense attorney at a medium-sized law firm. She also worked in transactional law at International Harvester (now Navistar) and Motorola in Chicago.
"The Motorola law department had many skilled paralegals, and that is where I first became aware of the important contribution paralegals make to the legal profession," she said.
Fairbank wanted courtroom experience, so she was hired by the DuPage Public Defender's office in the juvenile division. In 2002, she also began teaching business law at College of DuPage.
"I love talking about the law and the legal system," she said. "Although I was only teaching one class per week, I liked the excitement of the classroom and the feeling of helping someone understand the complexities of the legal system within the context of the business world."
When South Suburban College was searching for a coordinator and full-time faculty member for its Paralegal program, Fairbank applied for and was offered the job. But she stayed in touch with College of DuPage, aware that COD was planning to start its own Paralegal Studies program. When Paralegal Studies started in 2006, Fairbank was hired to create curriculum, interview and hire adjunct faculty, select all textbooks, and form an active advisory committee that now consists of 18 lawyers, paralegals and career professionals.
"I have an intuitive understanding about knowing what needs to get done to complete a project," she said. "But I couldn't have done it without the support of others. I was mentored by the talented faculty at College of DuPage, who are gifted teachers and show compassion and concern for their students. Also, I attended many conferences with other paralegal educators and spoke to them in-depth about how to design a high-quality program."
Since the program's inception at College of DuPage, Fairbank has been instrumental in building its success, growing enrollment from 25 initial students to 219 full- and part-time students in spring 2012. In 2010, the program received approval from the American Bar Association, a recognized leader in evaluating paralegal education programs and granting approval to programs that meet its rigorous guidelines. Although paralegal programs are not required to receive ABA approval, they seek it voluntarily in order to obtain the additional credibility and stature the ABA provides.
As the legal profession continues to evolve, Fairbank responds by continually reviewing curriculum. Two new Paralegal classes address the growing areas of elder law and immigration law.
"I want to play a role in building lives," she said. "I value the uniqueness of each individual student, and I want to lead all of them into this field of knowledge so they can have successful and rewarding careers in a field that I love."