Education

University of Iowa names new law school dean

Entrance to Boyd Law Building at the University of Iowa. (image via UI College of Law’s website)
Entrance to Boyd Law Building at the University of Iowa. (image via UI College of Law’s website)
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A former law school dean at the University of New Mexico and Obama-nominated assistant secretary of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs has been chosen to replace Gail Agrawal atop the University of Iowa’s College of Law.

Law professor Kevin Washburn, 50, was unveiled Tuesday afternoon as the N. Williams Hines UI College of Law dean, with an official start date of June 15. He’ll be the 153-year-old college’s 18th dean and will succeed Agrawal.

After serving as dean since July 2010, Agrawal announced in August plans to step down from that role, although she’ll continue as a member of the law school faculty.

Agrawal has led the college through significant shifts in the field, expanding programming and academic paths — creating new routes to the Juris Doctor, for example. She introduced a “3+3 admissions program,” enabling students to trim a year off their undergraduate degree by applying early to law school and using the first year of their advanced degree toward completion of the undergraduate.

She’s forged partnerships with more than a dozen other institutions in those early matriculation efforts, while expanding UI offerings — such as for international students. As enrollment slipped years ago, Agrawal asked the Board of Regents for permission to decrease tuition costs, an idea the board backed.

The College of Law is among several UI colleges experiencing a leadership change, with its colleges of Public Health, Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Medicine also undergoing transition at the top.

Before becoming one of five finalists to take the UI law school helm, Washburn served as dean of the University of New Mexico School of law from July 2009 to October 2012, according to a UI news release.

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In August 2012, then-President Barack Obama nominated Washburn to serve as assistant secretary to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and he received unanimous Senate confirmation in October of that year, serving until January 2016.

He was charged in that position to serve as principal adviser to the Secretary of the Interior and to the president “on matters involving tribal nations,” and he served as principal link between the government and the country’s 567 tribal nations, according to UI officials.

He boasts expertise in native American law, criminal law and gambling law and has an expansive portfolio of books, articles and testimony. In a statement, interim UI Provost Sue Curry touted Washburn’s “exception set of skills and experience.”

“He has a strong vision for the college’s continued advancement and is well positioned to move the school forward by creating new and innovative opportunities to learn, teach and serve,” Curry said.

A citizen of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, Washburn earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oklahoma and a Juris Doctor from Yale Law School. He went on to clerk for Judge William C. Canby Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and joined the U.S. Department of Justice honors program.

He taught at the University of Minnesota Law School in 2002; spent a year as the Oneida Nation Distinguished Visiting Professor of Indian Law at Harvard Law School; and served as the Rosenstiel Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law.

He also worked as a federal prosecutor in New Mexico in the violent crimes section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and was a trial lawyer with the U.S. Justice Department — later serving as general counsel of the National Indian Gaming Commission, according to UI officials.

His statement included in the UI announcement Tuesday touts the Iowa law faculty as “terrific.”

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“I look forward to working with my colleagues and the entire Iowa Law community to prepare students to meet the increasingly serious challenges facing Iowa and the world,” Washburn said in the statement.

In his new position, pending Board of Regents approval, he’ll earn an annual salary of $350,000. Agrawal’s salary is listed on the UI website as $341,931. In a statement, Agrawal welcomed Washburn to Iowa City and the Iowa law community.

“Dean Washburn is a highly regarded leader in legal education and will build on the strong traditions and values of Iowa Law to ensure our place as a best-value proposition among the top public law schools,” she said.

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