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February 03. 2013 9:20PM

New dean joins Salem college geared toward history, law


From left to right are ACHLS Assistant Dean Andrea DeFusco-Sullivan, Assistant Dean Maureen Mooney and interim Dean Peter Malaguti. Malaguti recently took over as interim dean following the retirement of founding dean Michael Chesson. (APRIL GUILMET PHOTO)

SALEM - With a new interim dean at the helm, Salem's American College of History and Legal Studies is paving the path for the next generation of law professionals.

Following the December retirement of founding dean Michael Chesson, one of the college's professors, attorney Peter M. Malaguti has stepped forward to fill his shoes.

Malaguti earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and his juris doctorate from Suffolk University Law School, where he was an editor of the law review. Also a full-time professor of law at the Massachusetts School of Law, he teaches courses in Constitutional Law, Property, Conveyancing, Land Use Regulation, Local Government Law and Landlord-Tenant Law. Malaguti has practiced extensively in the areas of civil litigation, real estate law and commercial law.

The ACHLS opened its doors inside an office park at 1 Stiles Road in fall 2010 and since then all of the school's initial crop of graduates have gone on to complete their legal studies at Massachusetts School of Law in Andover, Mass. The school, which markets itself as a senior or completion college, allows its students to complete their junior and senior years of undergraduate study, with a curriculum focusing exclusively on American history, including aspects of legal history.

ACHLS was formed in the same spirit that its sister school, Massachusetts School of Law, was formed over two decades ago - to provide "an inexpensive, yet rigorous legal education to students from working class, minority and immigrant backgrounds, as well as people in mid life seeking a legal career.

Malaguti said the ACHLS's first group of graduates will be taking the bar exams in July 2014.

The Salem campus offers college seniors the option of transferring credits to the Andover law school, where they can save money on tuition by completing undergraduate and graduate level courses at the same time as part of the "Early Admission to Law School" program. According to Assistant Dean Andrea DeFusco-Sullivan, average class size remains at around a dozen students, with night classes offered on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings to accommodate students' work and family schedules.

Students range in age, though ACHLS officials said most of the students tend to be in their late 30s or early 40s.

"Our students are really in the thick of their lives and they have a lot of things going on," DeFusco-Sullivan said. "But all of them are really quite industrious."

Malaguti, who teaches at both colleges, said the Salem school's philosophy of teaching using the discussion method as opposed to lecturing helps to prepare ACHLS graduates for the challenges they'll face in the courtroom.

"Lectures are banned here," Malaguti said. "The reason being that education theorists have realized a long time ago that active learning makes for more successful students and professionals."

Since opening its doors, the college, which staff said is the state's newest college, has encouraged its neighbors not to be strangers. Malaguti said those wishing to stop by and sit in on a class are encouraged to experience the teaching method firsthand. Staff members are also taking their show on the road by reaching out to community groups and others who might be considering a second chance at education.

"We live to accommodate working adults," Associate Dean Maureen Mooney said.

Applications are currently being accepted for the fall semester, and the school will offer 15 merit-based scholarships for those starting their studies in fall 2013.

As part of the scholarship program, students who choose to spend their senior year at ACHLS instead of going directly to the Massachusetts School of Law will have to pay only half tuition (or $5,000) in their senior year.

The ACHLS will host an open house on Wednesday, March 27, at 7 p.m. For more information on the college and its offerings, visit www.achls.org.

aguilmet@newstote.com


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