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Leading Higher Education Institutions

April 26, 2023

Across the country, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School alumni serve as deans or presidents at several law schools and universities.

The University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School prepares students to think dynamically, prioritize inclusivity, and collaborate across disciplines and sectors. Undoubtedly, these skills are critical to practicing law — they are also indispensable to leading institutions of higher education. 

Right now, six alumni are using their Penn Carey Law educations to build generative learning environments as deans and college presidents across the country. Organizing an engaging curriculum facilitated by leading scholars, encouraging a collaborative and collegial culture amongst students, and building strong networks that yield a wealth of cross-disciplinary opportunities are but a few of the multitude of indispensable aspects of what it means to lead academic institutions where students thrive. 

Aviva Abramovsky L’00: Dean of the University at the University of Buffalo School of Law

For Aviva Abramovsky L’00, the first woman to serve as Dean of the University at Buffalo School of Law, a deep belief in the transformative power of education centers her mission to cultivate an intentionally inclusive environment both in law school and in the legal profession at large.

Aviva Abramovsky L'00 Aviva Abramovsky L’00“You choose to become an academic because you believe in the future and the idea that we can train up the next generation of good and passionate advocates,” Abramovsky said. “You believe in the importance of our students. You believe, when you go into higher education leadership, in the importance of your institution and that through it, we can make a difference in the world.”

Abramovsky first applied to Penn Carey Law for two reasons: she wanted to study the Constitution in Philadelphia, and she wanted to study alongside the late Clyde Summers, Jefferson B. Fordham Professor of Law, emeritus, whose scholarship put him at the forefront of labor law. Following law school, Abramovsky worked at a large boutique insurance coverage firm in New York City; however, after 9/11, she reevaluated where she could make the most difference in the world.

She began her academic career teaching insurance law and took on leadership roles to advocate for programs about which she felt passionate. For example, as a professor at Syracuse, she created an LLM program, which she viewed as a way to both expand the institution and to promote peace internationally, through the collegial exchange of ideas and cultures.

Overall in higher education, Abramovsky underscored that “the best part of the job is the students.”

I am very proud of our students and all the members of our law school who have persevered despite so many unforeseen obstacles. Over the past few years, we have all lived in an extraordinary time and experienced sometimes overwhelming external challenges, so I’m very proud of our whole legal community for rising to that challenge,” Abramovsky said. “I think it’s important for us to remember all that we have overcome and use that to fuel our commitment to the pursuit of justice as we face continued challenges. The work must go on, our democracy depends on it.”

Horace E. Anderson, Jr. W’91, L’96: Dean of the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University

Dean of Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University Horace E. Anderson, Jr. W’91, L’96 became a law professor to help shape the next generation of lawyers. As his mentor and colleagues continued to encourage him to take on incremental leadership opportunities, he found that administrative positions allowed him to increase the breadth of his impact by enabling him to propose and actualize more ideas to increase access to and equity within the legal profession.

Horace E. Anderson, Jr. W'91, L'96 Horace E. Anderson, Jr. W’91, L’96Anderson’s goal is for Pace Law to be “a citizen of the community.” As the Dean, he’s pursued this goal through strengthening relationships with local organizations and businesses, as well as prioritizing access to justice initiatives that serve them. Moreover, as a preeminent leader in environmental law research, Pace Law faculty push the boundaries of contemporary scholarship to serve not only their law school community, but the world at large.

“It’s great to be part of a community where we’re looking to take both the law and legal education toward the future,” Anderson said. “The greatest point of pride is that the students, the faculty, and the staff are on board with trying to do new things and not just sticking with the traditional way of going through law school.”

Overall, Anderson loves his job, and his favorite part is Commencement Day, when friends and family members of the new graduates meet him, shake his hand, and thank him and the other faculty members for helping their loved one achieve the enormous accomplishment that is law school graduation. This resonates particularly strongly for Anderson, because he sees himself in every class of graduates. Anderson is a first-generation American and the first in his family to go to law school; his parents finished college at night while he was a child.

“I like my job, but I like it particularly because I’m truly giving back to a community that I understand well, because I come from it, in many ways,” Anderson said. “Obviously there’s a diversity of ethnic and racial and religious backgrounds among our student body, but that idea that part of your American dream includes taking this educational step is something that resonates with me personally, because it’s my story, as well as theirs.”

Marc Jerome L’92: President of Monroe College

For Monroe College President Marc Jerome L’92, community and education go hand in hand. His grandmother’s sister, Mildred King, founded Monroe College in 1933, and three years into working as a labor and employment attorney, Jerome learned that the campus in New Rochelle, New York was struggling, so he opted to help out.

Marc Jerome L'92 Marc Jerome L’92“The decision was, if I go work at the college and enjoy it, I can make a career of it, but if it’s not for me, it’s still early enough in my career that I could go back into law practice. So, in 1994, I joined the college,” Jerome said. “And, 29 years later, I’m still here. I became the President in 2017.”

Primarily, Jerome prioritizes supporting first-generation students.

Monroe College centers the first-generation experience by offering academics tailored for their specific needs. Moreover, Jerome personally organizes nature hikes and dinners meant to encourage students to build lasting mentor relationships. Recently, Monroe College was recognized as one of the top 1% of schools across the country for increasing social mobility, and according to Jerome, many of the graduates in the study moved up two income levels – out of poverty and into the working class.

“Doing anything that makes an impact on a student or the students’ families is worthwhile,” Jerome said.

In his capacity as president, Jerome also focuses on fostering an environment that is enjoyable for faculty and staff as they work toward Monroe College’s mission together. Jerome follows in the traditions that his father began when he was president, showing appreciation to staff by doing things like handing out birthday cards with personal messages, recognizing staff on their work anniversaries, distributing pies on Thanksgiving — even dancing the Electric Slide at the annual holiday party.

Jerome reflected that the education he received as a law student was indispensable in preparing him to lead Monroe College.

“There’s no doubt my training from Penn Carey Law was instrumental to my approach and my success at Monroe College. Number one, education is highly regulated, and there are not that many presidents that have the skill set for understanding the intersection between regulatory policy, operations, and outcomes,” Jerome said. “Also, the ability to communicate clearly and speak in an effective way helps me reach first-generation students wherever I go, and that’s very rewarding for me.”

Jason P. Nance L’06: Dean of SMU Dedman School of Law

Jason P. Nance L’06 is the Judge James Noel Dean and Professor of Law at the SMU Dedman School of Law. For Nance, whose scholarship focuses on the intersection between law, education policy, and the criminal justice system, education administration — and particularly law school administration — has proven to be an incredibly rewarding, if unforeseen, career.

Jason P. Nance L'06 Jason P. Nance L’06“I realized [the field of law school administration] was an opportunity to augment the strength in the law school community and foster the type of environment in which faculty members and students would thrive,” Nance said. “That’s really what I love most about this job: finding ways to create that optimal environment where people can be their best selves.”

From a leadership standpoint, Nance underscores that finding that optimal education environment involves a careful balance of both encouraging students to “stretch” themselves while simultaneously providing enough support so that, when they do, they can do confidently. In his role as Dean, Nance prioritizes cultivating a dynamic breadth of opportunities for students to explore their interests, try unexpected things, and grow into effective, ethical advocates.

“One of the most important things that a dean can do is shape a curriculum in which students can form a strong professional identity and one that is anchored in a strong value system that will help them navigate the complexities and the challenges surrounding this profession and, frankly, maximize the opportunities that this profession presents,” Nance said.

Nance’s dedication to education began long before his deanship. Nance started his career as a public school teacher, teaching middle school math in Houston, Texas. When he chose to pursue a master’s degree and a PhD in education administration, a class on education law captured his attention, and he decided he would go on to earn his JD at Penn Carey Law.

“Penn offers such a variety of high-level classes. My knowledge and understanding of particular areas grew, and that helped me understand what my interests were, what I wanted to pursue, and what I didn’t want to pursue,” Nance said. “Every class that I took was meaningful in some way. I learned a great deal from every professor and every class. I was grateful for that experience.”

Jennifer L. Rosato Perea L’87: Dean of DePaul University College of Law

Dean Jennifer L. Rosato Perea L’87 had always thought about becoming a teacher. After a federal clerkship and year of practice, she eagerly returned to academia, first as a Legal Writing professor. Since then, Rosato Perea’s career in legal education has led her to many roles, including being the Acting Dean the year Drexel’s law school launched, the Dean of Northern Illinois University College of Law, and for the past seven-plus years, the Dean at De Paul University College of Law.

Jennifer L. Rosato Perea L'87 Jennifer L. Rosato Perea L’87Both within and outside of the law school, Rosato Perea has implemented and strengthened programs to increase access to and success within the legal profession. At DePaul, first-year programs help all students — particularly those who are first-generation — develop a strong foundation to thrive throughout their law school careers. Mentoring programs encourage community and confidence-building, and wrap-around support services help meet expanding professional and self-care needs. Moreover, Rosato Perea has also worked with local bar associations, colleges, and the organizations in Chicago on projects aimed toward increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession.

Because many of these goals are necessarily oriented toward long-term, sustainable results, Rosato Perea underscores the importance of patience in evaluating all that she and others have worked together to accomplish.

“It’s always important to build community and have people working together toward those common goals and objectives, particularly of student success and academic excellence,” Rosato Perea said. “Sometimes you have to take the long view. You have to look back, because you might think in the day-to-day that you’re not getting anywhere or that there are setbacks…but when you look back and you see all that we have accomplished, that’s a prideful moment.”

In many ways, Rosato Perea’s emphasis on the value of collegiality in legal education grew out of her own experience as a student at Penn Carey Law.

“Penn Carey Law really prepared me in so many ways, not only to be an academic, but to be a leader in education,” Rosato Perea said. “What I always take with me in every place I go, and now every deanship, is the way that Penn Carey Law had the distinctive combination of academic excellence and rigor with community and care. That is something that is an ethos of Penn that I never imagined I would have, because law school is so daunting — but Penn Carey Law really was a wonderful community.”

Steve Stoute L’14: President of Canisius College

Named President of Canisius College in 2022, Steve Stoute L’14 credits his experience as a first-generation college student with being his inspiration to provide “that same opportunity for students to realize their potential through higher education.”

“Spending time with our students is unequivocally the best part of my job,” Stoute said. “Engaging in conversation with students and understanding their hopes, dreams, and aspirations, in their own words, reinforces for me the importance of higher education to our societal future. I try to make time every day, when I am on campus, to engage with our students because it is so energizing for me.”

Steve Stoute L'14 Steve Stoute L’14Prior to his current role, Stoute served in higher education positions at DePaul University, Princeton University, and University of Southern California. To Stoute, higher education institutions are critical to our society’s success; however, the complexities render them uniquely challenging to run. Thus, to Stoute, experience solving multi-faceted problems and considering diverse viewpoints is essential to strong academic leadership — both of which he learned at Penn.

“My time at Penn Carey Law challenged me intellectually and helped me further develop the core competencies: critical thinking, oral communication, analytical reasoning, to name a few, which are incredibly important in my role as president,” Stoute said.

As President of Canisius, Stoute prioritizes inclusion highly. Already, he has taken steps to cultivate a learning environment that invites a diverse body of students to thrive. This includes, for example, the decision to eliminate the use of standardized tests for undergraduate admissions.

“The data is clear about standardized tests and how they function to limit access to higher education for students of color, students from low-income families, and students with learning challenges,” Stoute said. “By deciding to be test-free, we made a commitment to eliminate a historical barrier and widen access to a Canisius education, which is consistent with our mission and values as an institution.”

For anyone considering a career that includes academic leadership, Stoute underscored that there’s no one path; importantly, he recommended approaching opportunities with open-minded flexibility.

“There is a growing need in U.S. higher education for creative, innovative thinkers, who are committed to the value of higher education in our society and for our students,” Stoute said. “Be open-minded about the opportunities you consider, and willing to take reasonable risks in pursuing a path that may be different than the one you envisioned or planned for yourself.”

Learn more about how Penn Carey Law alumni are transforming legal education.