Dean Duncan: Brandeis School of Law is on an upward trajectory
Brandeis School of Law Dean Susan Duncan hosted a Town Hall meeting Wednesday, offering an update on recent endeavors pertaining to the school and providing an opportunity for students to weigh in with their questions and concerns.
Dean Duncan kicked off the meeting by highlighting her personal objectives to increase alumni engagement and raise the profile of the school’s faculty and students.
For example, she noted that Brandeis students contributed more than 7,000 hours of public service last year. She has also started a new program to encourage faculty members to aim big for their published work, incentivizing them if they land in a top 50 or top 75 journal, and touting their efforts to help change laws, participate in symposiums, ride the media circuit and more.
“You all have some incredible faculty members here. They’re making a huge impact in the legal profession and within the academy,” Dean Duncan said, noting that their efforts are helping to put the school on an upward trajectory. “We have two new professors starting in the fall. We made job offers on a Friday and they both accepted the positions within a day or two. That shows we’re up and coming.”
Dean Duncan was also candid about the issues plaguing law schools around the country, notably the dramatic drop in admissions. For perspective, the Brandeis School of Law’s average applicant pool is about 1,200. Last year, it received 600 applications.
The biggest solution, she said, is to do something for students’ debt loads.
“We’re not part of the national narrative; we’re not $60,000 a year and we have good employment rates (after graduation),” Dean Duncan said. However, she added, the school is at a disadvantage -- particularly compared to the other two Kentucky law schools -- when it comes to scholarship availability.
UK, Chase, IU and Cincinnati all have substantially more in scholarship dollars so to make up some of this ground, Dean Duncan has been engaging alumni constantly and challenging them to donate back to their alma mater.
Students had the floor following the Dean’s remarks. Among their top concerns and comments were:
- How to contribute to the upward trajectory. “Join moot court teams and represent us well; fundraise with me; recruit good people,” Dean Duncan said.
- Increasing marketing to out-of-state students. All marketing efforts need to be more personable, she said.
- Student retention, particularly among minority students. Brandeis’ diversity efforts have to be constant, Dean Duncan said. She also highlighted the Diversity Summit in April hosted by the school.
Dean Duncan also suggested students share Brandeis’ best characteristics, including:
- The open door policy. “We’re a family. We have a total open door policy.”
- The close relationship with the bench and bar in Louisville. “Students have access to attorneys and judges because of this awesome relationship. You can’t just get that anywhere.”
- The public service mission. “This is a big advantage. We have a culture that understands the need for public service.”
"We’re on a great trajectory. You can’t underestimate the ACC thing. We’re not Duke yet but there is no reason we can’t be,” Dean Duncan said. “Our sports teams have gotten there; we can be there too. We just have to keep going. There is enough energy here to do so.”