Home2019-2020Issue 11Willamette School of Law in multi-step process of hiring new dean

Willamette School of Law in multi-step process of hiring new dean

Anna Seahill

staff writer

A seven-person search committee has been working to find the best candidate to replace Curtis Bridgeman as the College of Law dean after his decision to return to being a faculty member. 

Chairing this committee is Provost Senior Vice President Carol Long. She is accompanied by four law school faculty members, the student body law school president and one of the associate deans from Willamette’s Atkinson Graduate School of Management. 

Together, the committee members have been reviewing the law dean applicants. These candidates were selected over the summer by two outside senior consultants from Summit Search Solutions. In the beginning of the search process, there were 30 candidates; then, there was a semi-final review round of nine prospects. 

There are now four finalists left to choose from: Susan Bisom Rapp from Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, CA, David Yellen from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY, Brian Gallini from University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville and Karen Bravo from Indiana University’s Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis. All of these candidates have individually visited campus in the past two weeks to meet with the committee and give a presentation open to the Willamette community. 

Long explained that the selection process aims to be as inclusive as possible, through law faculty meetings and a survey that can be filled out by any administrators, faculty and students that attended the presentation, since feedback on the candidates is taken into consideration, too. 

The next step is for the committee to make a decision and pass on its recommendation to the University’s president, who is the ultimate hiring agent. The Board of Trustees also has the opportunity to meet with the finalists. Long said that the hope is to have a recommendation ready by the end of this week. After that, it can take until the end of the semester for the selected successor to be officially hired. The new law dean will then begin their duties on July 1, 2020.

This complex process of choosing a strong replacement for Dean Bridgeman centers around finding a professional who possesses the career qualifications as well as the personal characteristics of an effective leader. 

In the opening letter of the application document for candidates, Willamette President Stephen Thorsett wrote, “I believe that the College of Law is uniquely positioned to meet the challenges of our time and to build upon its strengths.” The areas listed as points of focus for the dean include communication and transparency, faculty development, alumni engagement and diversity, equity and inclusion. 

Long concluded that she believes the introduction of a new leader to the college community will result in a burst of energy and excitement. “We’ve had good leadership making progress on all of the things we care about,” she said. “We want someone to continue this enhancement of programs… We’re looking forward to bringing changes, entrepreneurialism and integration of the schools.” 

amseahill @willamette.edu

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