The University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law has tapped an expert on legal teaching as its next dean.
Michael Hunter Schwartz will assume the school’s top post in July. He now is associate dean for faculty and academic development at Washburn University School of Law and co-director of the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning. The institute is a joint effort by Washburn and Gonzaga University School of Law to study teaching methods.
“The fact that we have been able to hire a nationally and internationally recognized leader in legal education will bring many opportunities for the law school to reach an even higher academic level,” University of Arkansas Provost Zulma Toro said.
Schwartz has spent a decadestudying effective ways to teach law and has written numerous books on that topic. For the past four years, he has examined the teaching techniques of 26 highly effective law professors for a book due out this summer. Among his findings is that great classroom teachers can also be productive scholars, Schwartz said—refuting the view that law professors must emphasize one or the other.
Additionally, the best teachers are most often described by their students as “humble,” he said.
“Making a difference for students is really my passion,” Schwartz said. “I’m really excited to be going to UALR because it’s a particularly good fit for me.”
The law school’s faculty has been innovative in its approach to teaching and curricula, having established a set of learning goals for students. The American Bar Association has discussed making such learning outcome measures mandatory for accredited law schools, but has yet to act.
“The law school already has a long-range plan, so my priority will be to assess the degree to which the school and students are achieving those goals,” Schwartz said.
Still, Schwartz acknowledged that running a law school likely will present challenges.”Generally speaking, law schools aren’t not doing as well now as they have in the past economically, and that could be an issue,” he said.
Schwartz will replace professor Paula Casey, who has served as interim dean since John DiPippa stepped down in 2012.
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