IOWA CITY — After leading the University of Iowa College of Law through significant shifts in the field, weathering challenges those changes brought, and implementing creative solutions, Dean Gail Agrawal told her community this week she plans to step down at the end of this academic year.
“Serving on this faculty as dean has been a privilege and joy,” Agrawal wrote in a note to the Law School community.
Since joining the UI law school as dean in 2010, Agrawal has expanded programing and academic paths — including new routes to the Juris Doctor. She debuted a “3+3 admissions program” that allows undergraduate students to shave a year off their bachelor’s degree by applying to law school early and using the first year of their three-year law program to complete their undergraduate.
The law school has partnered with 13 other institutions in its early matriculation endeavors, while expanding offerings across the college — including an advanced standing program for international lawyers, a new Doctor of Juridical Science, and a new master’s degree.
When enrollment began to dip several years ago, mirroring national trends, Agrawal fought for — and got — a rare decrease in tuition. When some law schools nationally began offering degree paths that excluded the Law School Admissions Test, and the American Bar Association adopted accreditation rules allowing that, Agrawal introduced a new “Kinnick Law Scholars” program enabling UI students to apply for law school admission without the LSAT.
“I am proud of all the law school community has accomplished since I joined you in 2010,” Agrawal wrote in her message. “We welcomed outstanding scholars and teachers to our faculty ranks; those who became members of our faculty in the early years of my deanship have all achieved tenure and promotion and have already taken on important leadership roles in the law school and the university.”
She recounted reaching a $50 million fundraising effort “over goal and on time.” And noted the college has added a simulcast classroom and a new state-of-the-art courtroom as of this month.
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“We fulfilled the dream of building a student commons in the Boyd Law Building,” she reported.
In recalling recent challenges in legal education, Agrawal said, “We made hard choices.”
“I asked staff and faculty to work both more efficiently and harder, as you did,” she said.
In 2013, Agrawal presented her enrollment concerns to the Board of Regents. She reported at the time the pool of qualified applicants had fallen from 287 in 2010 to 173 in 2012. Her report prompted the board to approve a 16.4 percent tuition reduction — translating to a drop from $47,252 to $39,500 for non-resident Juris Doctor students.
Those rates have crept back up, with the board in June approving another increase — as it did for students across all its public universities — bringing non-resident JD costs to $44,018 and resident JD rates to $24,558 this fall.
In her battle to combat brain drain and improve Iowa’s ability to compete with top-ranked schools across the country, Agrawal in 2015 reported of the 334 Iowans who applied anywhere to law school, 62.3 percent — or 208 students — applied to UI. This state, she argued, needed to do more to retain its elite academics, and regents approved the LSAT-free degree path.
“Our achievements have brought the College of Law national recognition: a “Best Value” law school; a “Go to” law school for the nation’s largest law firms; and a U.S. News ranking as high as 20 and never lower than 29,” she wrote. “The Iowa Law Review achieved a top 10 ranking in its most recent ranking, and the Journal of Corporation Law is consistently second among specialty journals.”
In a subsequent message, Interim Executive Vice President and Provost Sue Curry said the university will launch a national search to replace Agrawal this fall.
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“Thanks to Gail’s excellent leadership since 2010, the college is in a very strong position and will no doubt attract many superb candidates,” Curry wrote in her message to vice presidents and deans.
“I am deeply grateful for Gail’s contributions to the college and the university, including above all her leadership of the college through a time of significant change and challenge,” Curry wrote. “I look forward to working with her during her final academic year as dean, as she continues to move the college toward its very bright future.”
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