A Transformative Impact: The Robina Foundation
The Robina Foundation was established in 2004 through a testamentary gift byJames H. Binger ’41. Its mission was to invest in organizations that were pursuing innovative solutions while addressing critical social issues. Minnesota Law was one of four principal beneficiaries of the foundation’s philanthropic endeavors and is grateful for its historic and transformational investment in our students, faculty, and programs. The foundation sunsetted last at the end of 2020 after providing over $60 million in support to the Law School.
Supporting the Work of Our World-Class Faculty
Minnesota Law faculty are brilliant scholars and committed teachers who bring real-world experience into the classroom. Our position as a top-ranked institution depends on our ability to provide our faculty with the resources to do their world-shaping work. The Robina Foundation’s support of three important professorships allows the Law School to continue its long and distinguished history of excellence in research, teaching, and real-world engagement.
Providing Students With Critical Support
In conjunction with the launch of the Driven to Lead campaign, the Robina Foundation generously offered a $500,000 match of funds to invest in endowed scholarships that ensure that a Minnesota Law education is accessible now and in the future. This generous match strengthened existing scholarships, significantly increasing the size of each award, and helped new funds grow rapidly, allowing the Law School to begin distributing scholarships after only one year. The foundation’s generous match encouraged a total of $1.13 million of additional giving to student support from alumni and friends who increased their existing funds or created new ones.
The Robina Foundation also created a $1.25 million matching fund pool to encourage annual fund donations to student support. Alumni and friends who took advantage of this match program made three-year commitments of either $5,000 or $20,000 per year to cover all or part of a student’s tuition.
Paving a Path to a Public Interest Career
The Robina Foundation supported the creation of the Robina Public Interest Scholars Program, the Robina Public Interest Postgraduate Fellowship Program, and the Robina Bridge Fellowship Program, the Law School is able to offer students a clear path from admission to full-time employment in public interest careers. Benefits of the Robina Public Interest Scholars Program include directed guidance from a public interest career counselor, guaranteed summer funding for unpaid internships, special consideration for the highly competitive Robina Postgraduate Fellowship, volunteer opportunities, mentoring, summer internships, and public interest coursework that offers students exposure to public interest work. Current Robina Public Interest Scholars hold positions in the Department of Justice, the Northwest Immigrant Law Center, and Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, for example. These individuals make an impact in their careers as public defenders, nonprofit leaders, defense attorneys, and more.
Endowing the Dean's Innovation Fund
Last fall, the Robina Foundation made its final gift to the Law School: $2.3 million to endow the Dean’s Innovation Fund. At the dean’s discretion, this fund supports innovative programs and initiatives, such as faculty research and engagement; enhancing student experiences, as with the newly launched Minnesota Law app; and advancing the overall mission and goals of the Law School and its dean.
Establishing the Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice
With the generous support of the Robina Foundation, Minnesota Law established the Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice. Its mission is to explore and expand the work of the Law School’s renowned criminal law faculty, who teach and do research at the forefront of criminal law and public policy, sentencing law and policy, criminal law theory, and punishment practices.
After an initial round of funding, the foundation offered support for the institute to scale its work up in the area of sentencing law and policy, hire other experts, including executive director Kelly Mitchell, add support staff and quantitative and qualitative researchers, and form interdisciplinary collaborations with other scholars, practitioners, and jurisdictions.
This allowed the institute to expand scholarship and research beyond conventional thinking about mass incarceration, thus building a deeper understanding of what drives mass punishment in the United States. Professor Kevin Reitz says projects that he, Professor Richard Frase, and others worked on at the institute deeply informed what was included in the American Law Institute’s Model Penal Code: Sentencing. (Reitz served as reporter for the 15-year-long project, which has had a real-world impact on sentencing practices across the country.)
Establishing the James H. Binger Center for New Americans
The Law School launched and grew the James H. Binger Center for New Americans with Robina Foundation support, totaling nearly $30 million since the center’s 2013 inception. Led by faculty director Benjamin Cooper '97 and executive director Deepinder Mayell, the center oversees four clinics and a robust education and outreach program that provide legal services for immigrants and noncitizens at the local and federal level. Accomplishments include successfully arguing for asylum for clients facing life-threatening situations in their home countries, landing a victory in the U.S. Supreme Court case Mellouli v. Holder, and successfully stopping the deportation of 92 Somali men and women.
With an estimated 83,000 undocumented immigrants living across Minnesota, The Rural Immigration Access Clinic, the center’s newest clinic, expanded its legal services, screening more than 450 immigrants in pop-up clinics in rural Minnesota and South Dakota. Law students enrolled in the clini work with center staff and faculty, volunteers, and attorneys to provide intakes to noncitizens and immigrants living in these rural communities.
Minnesota Law is deeply grateful to the Robina Foundation for its unparalleled support of the next generation of lawyer-laders who gain training and experiential learning opportunities while serving some of our most vulnerable communities.
Providing Institutional Support
Minnesota Law is committed to educating the next generation of lawyer-leaders—those who will go on to serve as heads of law firms and leaders of the bench and bar, as prominent CEOs and general counsels, and as influential public servants. To best prepare students for success, the Law School must develop the lawyering and professional skills of our students, preparing them for careers that require both skill and adaptability. With the Robina Foundation’s support, the Law School has been able to grow capacity for institutional advancement programs and staff, developing resources, funds, scholarships, and opportunities that will support future generations of lawyer-leaders.