Michael A. Fitts, who over the past decade has led a physical transformation of the University of Pennsylvania Law School while promoting the interdisciplinary approach and collaborative environment that are central to the School’s educational mission, has agreed to extend his term as dean until June 30, 2015. Dean Fitts took the post in 2000 and has been a professor at the Law School since 1985. He will complete his original second term as dean on June 30, 2012.
“The respect and admiration for Mike’s leadership is striking and underscores his many accomplishments as dean of Penn Law for the past 10 years,” University President Amy Gutmann said in an announcement. Gutmann and Provost Vincent Price consulted a wide range of stakeholders in making the decision to seek Dean Fitts’ extension, including the entire Law School faculty, other deans, senior officers of the University, the chairs of the Faculty Senate, Trustee chair David L. Cohen, and Law Board of Overseers chair Paul Haaga. All were unanimous in their praise of Fitts’ accomplishments as dean.
“Mike has given the Law School a clearer sense of mission, cultivated support for that mission from all of the School’s important constituencies, structured the School to fulfill its vision and worked tirelessly to realize it,” Gutmann said. “Above all, while increasing the size of the faculty by more than 40 percent, he has fostered a highly collegial and cohesive community within the School, which has become a major factor in attracting and retaining the very best faculty and students.”
Over the past decade, Dean Fitts has expanded the size and academic breadth of the standing faculty, bringing more than 25 renowned scholars and promising young intellectuals to Penn Law. He has overseen the creation and expansion of innovative programs to attract top student talent, including the Levy Scholars and Toll Public Interest Scholars programs, and led the Law School to a 78% increase in applications for admission.
During his tenure, the Law School has created cross-disciplinary programs that are unrivaled among the leading law schools. These include 30 degree and certificate programs offered in partnership with schools across the University, as well as new interdisciplinary courses and clinical programs within the law curriculum.
Dean Fitts has demonstrated the Law School’s commitment to public interest with increased funding for students working in public interest and government positions, expansion of the Public Interest Scholars and Public Interest Fellows programs, and the introduction of Public Interest Week. He has supported significant growth in international programming, including the creation of the Global Research Seminar, International Human Rights Fellowship program, Global Forum, and major conferences about pressing topics in international law. He has also overseen the introduction of the Center on Professionalism, a program designed to educate students in the full set of skills required by the new marketplace.
To support the Law School’s significant growth in programming and in faculty over the past decade, Dean Fitts has spearheaded a physical transformation of the Law School campus. That transformation is currently in its final phase with the Golkin Hall project, a $33.5 million, 40,000-square-foot building scheduled for completion in January, 2012. The project follows a multi-year, $18 million, top-to-bottom renovation Penn Law’s other interconnected buildings.
As a fundraiser, Dean Fitts has led the Law School in more than doubling its endowment and annual donations, building stronger ties with its alumni, donor, and professional constituencies, and raising the funds needed to totally modernize the Law School’s physical plant.
“We are confident that Michael Fitts will continue to lead Penn Law to new heights,” Gutmann concluded in announcing Dean Fitts’ extension. “Provost Price and I look forward to working with him in the years ahead to ensure that Penn Law continues to thrive as an ever more eminent institution.”
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