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The University of Iowa is kicking off its parade of presidential finalist visits to campus this week and next with distinguished law professor Hari Michele Osofsky, dean of Penn State Law and of the Penn State School of International Affairs.
Osofsky graduated magna cum laude in 1993 from Yale College with distinction in philosophy and environmental studies majors. She earned her Juris Doctor in 1998 from Yale Law School, where she won the Khosla Memorial Fund Prize for the “student who best demonstrates an active engagement in advancing the values of human dignity in the international arena.”
While in undergrad at Yale, Osofsky earned 44 public speaking honors, according to her curriculum vitae.
She’s been in her current position at Penn State University since 2017. Before that, Osofsky held numerous professorships and academic leadership posts at the University of Minnesota; Washington and Lee University; University of Oregon; Whittier Law School; Vermont Law School; Loyola Law School; Sun Yat-sen University School of Law in China; and Yale College of Arts and Sciences.
Osofsky is among four candidates from among a pool of 79 applicants that a UI search committee has chosen as finalists to replace outgoing UI President Bruce Harreld.
Each finalist is scheduled for a two-day visit to campus this week and next. All the finalists will participate in public forums that will allow limited in-person attendance and will be streamed online.
Osofsky will be in town Monday and Tuesday, and her public forum is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Monday. Members of the public can submit questions for Osofsky on the UI presidential search website.
Names of each finalist will be released at 8 a.m. 24 hours before they are scheduled to visit.
- Finalist No. 2 is scheduled to come Thursday and Friday;
- Finalist No. 3 is scheduled for April 19-20;
- Finalist No. 4 is scheduled for April 22-23.
The Board of Regents’ decision in 2015 to hire Harreld, a former IBM executive who had no academic administrative experience before he became a finalist to replace former UI President Sally Mason, sparked widespread criticism among students, faculty, and staff.
Although Harreld in 2019 agreed to extend his initial five-year contract through 2023, he announced plans to retire in October — three years before his contract’s expiration. Harreld initially said he wanted to stay on until a successor starts and help that person transition, avoiding the need for interim leadership, but he recently announced regents President Mike Richards asked him to stay just through this semester’s end.
Retiring Graduate College Dean John Keller has been tapped to serve as interim president until the campus’ 22nd president starts.
By stepping down early, Harreld is leaving on the table $2.3 million in deferred compensation.
'Commitment to address bias’
Osofsky is active on social media, Tweeting support for colleagues’ awards, promotions, and presentations; spreading news, like Penn State’s recent launch of a law lab for gender and economic equity; and condemning acts of racism, often by promoting community conversations on the topic.
On the day of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Osofsky tweeted, “Our courts & our state officials have not found any evidence of widespread fraud or election irregularity. Our Congress and the vice president will soon complete the democratic process that ensure the integrity of U.S. elections & undergirds peaceful transitions of power.”
She also in January praised an executive order under the new Biden administration repealing a ban on transgender people serving in the military and ordering a record correction for servicemen and women affected by the ban.
And she earlier this year condemned offensive Zoom-bombings at a Penn State virtual spring involvement fair “in which hate speech & racial slurs were directed at our community” and reaffirmed “our commitment to address bias & advance racial equity.”
In September, Osofsky co-hosted a tribute to late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — paying her tribute too in social media posts.
In a Penn State bio, Osofsky reports extensive work “supporting more women and people of color consider law school and university leadership” and was recognized by the American Bar Association’s Legal Technology Resource Center in 2019 among the Women of Legal-Tech.
Her more than 50 publications have focused on “improving governance and addressing injustice in energy and climate change regulation,” according to a Penn State bio. One article in the Emory Law Journal titled, “Energy Partisanship,” won the 2018 Morrison Prize for “impactful sustainability-related legal academic article.”
In January, Osofsky moderated a virtual roundtable focused on racial equity and the rule of law that included legal experts and deans from across the country.
Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.
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