Loyola’s new interim law dean to focus on school’s visibility

The following article about Michael J. Kaufman, Loyola’s interim law dean, was published today in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.

Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.

The new leader at the helm of Loyola University Chicago School of Law is no stranger among the faculty and staff at the Philip H. Corboy Law Center.

Michael J. Kaufman, who assumed the role of interim dean of the law school on July 1, has taught at the school since 1986 and served as the associate dean for academic affairs for the past 11 years. He also directs the school’s Education Law and Policy Institute and its Institute for Investor Protection.

Kaufman fills the vacancy left by former dean David N. Yellen, who joined Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., as its president.

Prior to joining Loyola, the University of Michigan Law School graduate clerked for Judge Nathaniel R. Jones of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and practiced securities and civil rights litigation at Sachnoff & Weaver Ltd., now Reed, Smith.

In addition to instructing courses on civil procedure and education law and policy at Loyola, Kaufman is a public arbitrator for securities disputes and teaches bar exam review classes around the country.

Also included in Kaufman’s curriculum vitae are a wide variety of published works, including research in jurisprudence, securities regulation and litigation, civil procedure and education law and policy.

While Kaufman brings decades of experience in the legal field to his new post, he said he thinks his time as a school board member will help him fulfill the position as interim dean. He served three terms on the Highland Park and Highwood District 112 Board of Education, including roles as the board’s president and vice president.

Kaufman said these roles provided him with the experience of taking in the concerns of a variety of different stakeholders while making leadership decisions — something he plans to do in his new leadership position.

“I learned through that process that a lot of what leadership is about is trying to find core strengths in an organization and really building on them and almost make any weaknesses irrelevant,” he said. “I’ve found that you have to do this in a shared, collaborative way with every imaginable stakeholder in an organization.”

Kaufman said he intends to help emphasize the school’s strengths, many of which he said relate back to the institution’s Jesuit foundation — which, Kaufman explained, calls for service to others and “caring for the whole person.”

“We say that we’re a home for all faiths or non-faiths. But it means something to be a Jesuit,” Kaufman said. “Some schools think that this is a three-year process of pure intellectual growth and see no connection between cognitive growth and emotional and social well-being growth. That’s not true empirically, that’s not true from research … that’s not true in our experience and it’s not true as part of our mission. We tend to every student as a whole person.”

Also chief among Kaufman’s goals is to make the school more visible, which is a buzzword he said is trending in education but has a specific meaning that he wants to make a priority at the law school.

“It’s a word now that means ‘making visible to multiple stakeholders through many media on the process and products of students and professional growth,’” Kaufman said. “What that means … is finding ways to make visible anything that anyone who cares about a school what happens in a school.”

One of the ways schools are publicized is through standardized testing, but Kaufman said the tests don’t paint a complete picture of an institution. For example, he said the U.S. News & World Report rankings in some measures only provide a snapshot of what goes on at law schools.

To expand the school’s “visibility,” Kaufman wants to make sure alumni and anyone else interested in the school are aware about what’s happening there.

“I want to make sure there are a zillion ways in which people know what goes on here,” Kaufman said. “That means inviting (people) in as engaged alums, but also as community members, to see this school in Chicago, an incredibly vibrant city with all kinds of challenges, to see this as a hub of the community where they can come and have a safe place to dialogue, but also to use every media available to us to show what goes on here.”

Just one of those things going on at the law school is a new program designed by Kaufman. Beginning this fall, the school will begin offering a part-time J.D. program, which is a blend of online and on-campus courses designed to offer flexible course options for non-traditional students. Students will meet for seven weekends per semester and the remainder of course work will take place online.

Although Kaufman said he’s a strong believer in the value of face-to-face learning, he noted that some curriculum can be effectively taught electronically. The program was also developed to meet the requests of the school’s evening program students, who cited concerns over meeting the program schedule while commuting and working full-time.

Kaufman, who will instruct one of the program courses this fall, said he expected the program to draw students from across the Midwest, but they have had participants from as far as Florida, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania sign up.

The hybrid courses will also build on the school’s mission of making sure legal education is accessible.

“The weekend program serves that goal literally by making the legal education here, a really good one, available to students who otherwise couldn’t have it by virtue of their work or life schedule, their geography and their resources,” Kaufman said. “One of our strengths is innovative, online and blended programs and one of my goals is to leverage that strength and build on it to create this first-ever weekend J.D. program.”

Launching a new program and taking on the role of interim dean are bound to keep Kaufman busy, but another longtime Loyola law school faculty member who also once filled the role of interim dean said she’s confident Kaufman will provide the school with sound leadership.

Diane C. Geraghty, who served as interim dean from 2004 to 2005, described the role as one that requires balancing because it entails both trying to move the school forward while also not making any major changes that could affect the job of a potential successor.

“It is one (position) that Michael is eminently well qualified to play. He is brilliant, he is well-liked by everyone, he is a calming influence, he has a prestigious capacity for productivity,” she said. “This is someone who has been an academic dean and published books and always has time to say hello and have a chat. He’s unflappable. He’s an outstanding teacher.”

“Speaking from someone who’s (been interim dean), I think he’s not only fully capable of doing it, but even better than I was able to do it, and I think it went OK when I was around,” Geraghty said.

Copyright 2016 Law Bulletin Publishing Company. Reprinted with permission.

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