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School Broadens Intellectual Scope, But Retains Trademark Warmth 1 - 2 - 3 - 4- 5- 6

Students talking in Tanenbaum Hall
Naturally, this cornucopia of courses requires more professors. When Fitts joined the faculty in 1985, there were 28 professors. The school now boasts 42, and the school’s master plan calls for five or six more – in health, corporate and international law. “When I got here (in 1981) the fact that I had read some economics in college
made me one of the more interdisciplinary members of the faculty,” says Seth Kreimer, associate dean and professor of law. “Today half of my colleagues have Ph.D.’s. in some other discipline.”

Now, you might think more students, more professors, and a more complex web of relationships with other schools at the university would diminish the school’s trademark friendliness. Think again. Yes, intellectually, the law school has traveled a route of Marco Polo proportions, but it has done so without losing its small-town character.

“I think what’s stayed the same is the fundamental decency of the students around here,” says Gary Clinton, assistant dean of student affairs. “We’ve been able to attract a group of students … who say, ‘This is the kind of community I want to be a part of.’ “ At the law school, collegiality rules. Students greet each other warmly, share notes, answer each other’s questions. The atmosphere is less competitive than at other peer law schools due, in part, to the small scale of Philadelphia, to smaller class sizes than at other schools, and to the bonds developed between long-term administrators and students.
“Maybe that student in Arizona wouldn't have applied to Penn twenty years ago, and now sees Penn as a top choice," Verrier says.
That’s why when Dan Markind L’83 returned to visit after fifteen years away from the school, administrators treated him like family. Markind, one of Jo-Ann Verrier’s classmates, came back because he needed a copy of his transcript. With him was a summer associate from another law school. As soon as Markind walked into the Registrar’s Office, Verrier recalls, Registrar Gloria Watts said, “ ‘Hi, Dan, what can we do for you?’ ” Which floored the student, who almost fainted. “This student knew that not a single administrator at his current law school knew his name, and here we had the registrar calling an alumnus by name years and years after he graduated,” Verrier says. “I think that’s telling.”.
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