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Next Bowen dean hints at partnerships

Submitted by Liz Fox on January 31, 2013 – 4:40 pmNo Comment

Michael Hunter Schwartz has been named the new dean for the UALR William H. Bowen School of Law, officials announced Jan. 15 in a press release.

Schwartz, who currently resides in Lawrence, Kan., will replace law professor and Interim Dean Paula Casey, who was appointed last July after former Dean John DiPippa stepped down. Casey will continue to serve until Schwartz’s duties officially begin July 1. Dipippa received Dean
Emeritus status soon after stepping down and has returned to teaching part-time at Bowen.

“I know that faculty and staff at the UALR Bowen School of Law are incredibly excited about welcoming Michael to our school,” Casey said in a recent press release. “He is highly respected as an educator and advocate for helping create practice-ready attorneys, and his work in these areas will continue to strengthen our focus on legal skills education.”

Casey, who will return to teaching for a final term before her retirement in December, also participated in the process as a member of the search committee. The committee was chaired by Associate Dean Felecia Epps, who joined the Bowen faculty in 1999 and outlined a variety of criteria used to select prime candidates.

“We were particularly interested in those with leadership experience in an academic setting,” she said. “We also wanted to bring in candidates with substantial records of scholarly publication. Finally, and most important for our student-focused learning environment was the experience of working in an environment focused on student learning and achievement.”

According to Epps, it was Schwartz’s contagious energy and enthusiasm that helped him stand apart from other finalists.

“Dean Schwartz brought to the table his extensive teaching experience in addition to his leadership experience,” she said. “He has shown an exceptional commitment to legal education and improving the quality of law teaching and student learning in every position he has held.”

Schwartz currently serves as associate dean for Faculty and Development at the Washburn School University of Law in Topeka, Kan. Born and raised in New Jersey, he received his bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Berkley, he graduated from the University of California Hastings College of Law with a juris doctor degree in 1987. He previously taught at Charleston School of Law and once worked as an associate for law firms in Los Angeles and Newport Beach, Calif.

While he applied for other jobs at several universities, he quickly withdrew his name from consideration when Bowen offered him the administrative position.

“I realized that, if I somehow were to decide that I did not want to be dean at Bowen, I would not want to be a dean anywhere,” he said. “The opportunities at Bowen and my sense of shared purpose with the Bowen faculty and staff were unique.”

In addition to applauding the school’s location and its job potential for students, Schwartz also hinted at some of his future plans for the university — notably a sense of collaboration between UALR and Bowen faculty. While several ties exist, he believes there is potential for greater endeavors between professors and programs at both schools.

“One cutting-edge trend in legal education is that law schools are starting to offer courses that match law students and [students from other majors],” he said. “I hope we can create similar experiences in Little Rock.  Other possibilities include joint conferences and programs, additional joint degrees, and collaborative clinical programs, such as a small-business incubator collaboration between the business school and the law school.”

But even more important to Schwartz is driving Bowen’s reputation. While the law school is already held in high regard by other universities, he believes this can be expanded through program expansion and practical methods of education, which will ensure further success for law school graduates.

“I hope the law school can build on its efforts to offer a practice-focused legal education and can become a model for great law teaching, careful assessment, and data-driven curriculum design,” he said. “Most of all, I want those who hire new Bowen graduates to feel like they are hiring great lawyers, and I hope Bowen graduates feel proud of their law school and themselves and find challenging and meaningful work.”


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