It’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.