Faculty Who Care
Robert M. Donley
Professor, Legal Studies & Paralegal
I attended Northern Lebanon High School in Fredericksburg, PA, where I graduated magna cum laude in 1983. After attending my freshman year at Lebanon Valley College, I transferred to Messiah College where I graduated cum laude in 1987. I then attended Temple University School of Law, where I wrote for the Temple Law Review and graduated in 1990. I took and passed the Pennsylvania Bar Exam, and was admitted to practice law in Pennsylvania on November 30, 1990.
I grew up in a small village in northern Lebanon County. One of the biggest ironies of my life is that, due to the fact that I always had my nose in a book as a kid, my nickname growing up was "Professor."
I attended a rural high school and two small-town colleges. Culture shock set in in 1986 when I moved to the Temple campus of Messiah College, right in the heart of North Philadelphia. To my surprise, I ended up loving the city, and continued to live in Philadelphia until I graduated from law school in 1990.
My legal career took me from Lebanon to Pittsburgh and back. I never really specialized, but I did quite a bit of commercial litigation, family law, and insurance defense work. Unlike most of my colleagues, I enjoyed doing legal research and writing legal briefs, and I spent a lot of time in the library. But I also got to travel all over Pennsylvania, representing clients in a wide variety of counties from Philly to Elk.
In 1999, I became certified as a mediator. Since then, I have spent a lot of time researching, writing, and speaking about conflict resolution, which has become my specialty as well as my passion. I have mediated on a volunteer basis for Neighborhood Dispute Services in Harrisburg, where I also served on the Board of Directors. I am in the process as well of building my own dispute resolution and consulting business, Unity Conflict Solutions.
I've taught at Central Penn since 2002, and I have to admit that teaching law is very different from practicing it, and in many ways a lot more fun.
My teaching philosophy assumes that learning is a joint effort between student and instructor. My job is to present material in a way the student can understand and internalize; the student's job is to study and learn that material. Success happens when we both do our jobs.
In the classroom, I like to teach visually, using diagrams and pictures rather than mere words to illustrate concepts and associations. Organization of material is paramount, and my presentation style grows out of my desire to present material in a clear, organized, and logical way. I use humor and sometimes controversy to spark interest, and I love to bring current events, politics, and social issues into the classroom.
More and more, I have been using "frequent low-stakes assessments" as tools to assess student learning. This means that I will give lots of assignments and quizzes worth five or ten points, along with a final exam and project worth more. This assessment method helps me keep a constant eye on how students are learning, and gives students useful tools for study as the term progresses.