Southern Methodist University has named Wake Forest University Vice Provost Jennifer Collins as the next dean of its Dedman School of Law.
Collins, who has also taught law at Wake Forest since 2003, will assume the SMU deanship in July.
“She is a brilliant legal scholar and an outstanding academic adviser,” provost Paul Ludden said. “Her experience as an associate provost at Wake Forest has provided her with a campus-wide perspective that will be invaluable in leading Dedman School of Law and SMU.”
Collins’ experience in central university administration is somewhat unusual for a law dean—it’s more common for deans to move from the law school into central administration.
Collins became an associate provost for academic and strategic initiatives at Wake Forest in 2010 before being promoted to vice provost in September. She led the university’s efforts to break into distance learning and online education, as well as a campus-wide push to increase diversity.
Collins said in an interview that she hopes her background will give her a unique perspective in her new role.
“One of the great opportunities that this legal education crisis gives us is the chance to think about things in a fresh way,” Collins said. “Law schools often don’t think as critically as the rest of the academy as far as how we teach students.”
Collins will replace interim law dean Julie Forrester, who assumed that role in June after former dean John Attanasio stepped down after 15 years in the job.
Earlier, Collins spent eight years in the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia and one year in private practice. She said she was attracted to the deanship because of SMU’s impressive faculty and engaged students, and by Dallas’ vibrant economy. While she intends to meet with faculty and students before establishing her agenda, there are already a few items on her to-do list.
“I know the school feels it is underrated in the rankings, so I want to help move it up,” Collins said. Graduate employment will be another focus. “I care very deeply about our students having rewarding careers, and I want to make sure we’re sending them out into practice with the tools they need.”
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