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Dean's Desk: IU McKinney dean reflects on first year on the job

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Dean Andrew KleinIt’s been nearly a year since I became dean of the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, and it would be impossible to fully describe the experience in this short column. But as the philosopher and educator John Dewey once said, “We do not learn from experience ... we learn from reflecting on experience.” So indulge me some brief reflections.

 

Reflection No. 1: I am humbled by the amazing impact that my school’s alumni and students have in this community and beyond.

Here are just a few examples:

• The McKinney Law graduating class of 2014 collectively donated more than 22,000 hours of pro bono service to the community during their time as students. Many volunteered while juggling not only school, but work and family responsibilities as well. I was proud that a McKinney Law student, Tara Baldwin, received the Indianapolis Bar Association’s Pro Bono Award at the organization’s annual recognition luncheon last fall. I was equally proud when the IBA named another McKinney Law student, Matt Maples, “Law Student of the Year” this spring in honor of his commitment to pro bono service.

• Our school’s namesake, Robert H. McKinney, along with Indiana University President Michael McRobbie, was honored by the Anti-Defamation League with a “Man of Achievement” award for work fostering community, justice and equal opportunity. Bob McKinney is an outstanding role model, and it is inspiring to see his philanthropy making a difference as we prepare the next generation of leaders and lawyers.

• Speaking of leaders and lawyers, how about Jeff Papa (J.D. ’99 and LL.M. ’10)? Jeff is chief of staff and legal counsel for the Indiana Senate, president of the Zionsville Town Council, working toward a doctorate in education leadership, and the father to two elementary-school-aged daughters. He also remains busy with a nonprofit organization he founded, Youth Enhancement and Training Initiative, that supports an orphanage in Nepal in Southeast Asia. Wow!

Reflection No. 2: I am impressed with how my school helps enrich the community with thought-provoking, vibrant and relevant programming. Again, a few examples:

• Our Black Law Students Association and Hispanic Law Society co-hosted an event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. Jennett Hill (’98), senior vice president and general counsel of Citizens Energy, gave a keynote address and spoke eloquently about what the Act and the Civil Rights Movement has meant for her career.

• Our student-run Equal Justice Works organization hosted its sixth annual Public Interest Recognition Dinner and honored three amazing alumni: Kennard Bennett (’82), who focuses his practice on guardianships and consumer health issues; Monica Foster (’83), who is nationally known for her defense of indigent clients who face the death penalty; and Judge Brett J. Niemeier (’85), who gives so much of his time on behalf of children in Vanderburgh County. The event raised funds for our Loan Repayment Assistance Program, which helps students who choose public interest careers to repay their student loan debt.

• On March 11, our building’s atrium was packed with hundreds of people for the school’s inaugural job fair. The fair was the brainchild of our Student Bar Association leadership, who worked with our law school staff and alumni association to organize the event. I was proud that, instead of simply wringing hands over a tough job market, our students chose to engage and do something about it.

Reflection No. 3: My final reflection is that law school deans have the opportunity to do some really cool things!

• During the course of the school year, I crisscrossed the state of Indiana, meeting hundreds of alumni and friends from Merrillville to Evansville and all points in between. I met young lawyers who are building professions and improving communities. I met CEOs and general counsels who lead major companies. I met leaders in the Statehouse and in Congress, all of whom represent our school and profession incredibly well.

• I visited with alumni across the country, traveling to places like Chicago; Washington, D.C.; Phoenix and south Florida. I knew that McKinney Law alumni were widely placed, but I now see the impact that they make throughout the nation.

• I traveled to China with my colleague Professor Tom Wilson, Indiana Supreme Court Justice Steven David (’82), and William Singer (’12), helping to foster relationships in a country where our school has maintained strong friendships and programs for more than 25 years.

• And to top it all off, I got to throw out a first pitch at an Indianapolis Indians game with a big crowd from the McKinney Law family cheering me on. And, yes, I got the ball over the plate.

Best wishes for a wonderful summer, and thanks to so many of you for your friendship and incredible support of the Indiana University McKinney School of Law.•

__________

Andrew R. Klein is the dean and the Paul E. Beam Professor of Law at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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  2. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  3. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  4. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

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