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Video feature: Dean Michael Fitts on the value of Penn Law’s cross-disciplinary model

January 24, 2013

Penn Law’s distinctive emphasis on cross-disciplinary education embraces a University-wide ideal of “integrating knowledge,” and its academic programs are fully integrated with other elite professional and graduate schools on campus, providing students an unparalleled opportunity to prepare for careers that engage virtually every major issue facing our society.

In a video feature, Penn Law’s Dean Michael A. Fitts discusses how the Law School’s  cross-disciplinary approach prepares graduates to be leaders, advisors, and problem-solvers across fields and sectors in a complex, multi-dimensional society.




The greatest strength of Penn Law is its cross-disciplinary education. We teach law students and lawyers how to think, and that is the core of what a legal education is about and it’s the core of what a legal education has been about for the last hundred years. But what has grown and changed over the years is the number of areas, the number of fields in which lawyers not only have to respond to claims and arguments, but to be able to plot a course.

The purpose of this is to teach our students not only the disciplines of other fields, but how to engage with the professionals in those other fields; how to work with them, not only in the classroom, but outside of the classroom. And that can be true whether it is the medical school or somebody who works in the internet in the Engineering School, in communication at the Annenberg School, or business and finance at the Wharton School. It’s all part of being engaged across different schools, across different disciplines, across different professional cultures.

Penn is unique in that we have 12 different schools all proximate to another on one campus. So at the Law School, we have 35 different joint programs across the university and certificate programs, which enable our students as part of their law degree to reach out across the university and receive both informal and formal credit for working in the fields related to law.

Our cross-disciplinary education is also geared thinking about how careers will evolve over time. The range of different degrees that we offer enable our students to have the degree of specialization that will allow them to be leaders in those fields, not only when they leave the law school but over time, in their careers.

If you look at the people who are in the building, our faculty, over half of them have an appointment or a relationship with another school in the University, which are the tops in their fields across a large number of areas. So that just within the building, in terms of the faculty, you find a group of people who are at the very forefront of integrating law with other fields.

It’s part of who we are, who Penn as a University is and who Penn Law School is, as a law school.  


Transcript edited for length.