By Dean Jane Korn
is wonderful to be at Gonzaga Law School and the year is off to a great start. I have started meeting alumni in Spokane, Seattle, Montana and Anchorage, and many more trips are planned. I am enjoying becoming a part of this warm and welcoming community of people who care about Gonzaga and its mission. I am thankful for the hard work of those who came before me to help make Gonzaga what it is today and want to send a special thanks to former Dean Earl F. Martin and formerly acting Dean George Critchlow.
Classes began August 22 and we welcomed 176 new 1L students. This entering class is 51 percent female. Despite declining applications nationwide, we were able to bring in this group of remarkable students at the expected class size. Our new students hail from 29 different states, the District of Columbia, and Canada and they represent more than 80 different colleges and universities. This interesting and varied group includes a member of the Utah Air National Guard who was the only female flight line worker on her base, one who is fluent in Korean and someone who taught English in Korea. In their midst are a 2010 NCAA regional high jump qualifier, an environmental geologist, a football player who also has an MBA, a former teacher on an Indian reservation, a first degree certified black belt in karate, and a nurse who runs marathons (including qualifying for the Boston Marathon) who also has four children.
We have been busy at the Law School. On Sept. 12, we celebrated Red Mass, honoring our three Gonzaga alumnae who serve on the Washington Supreme Court – Chief Justice Barbara Madsen, Justice Mary Fairhurst and Justice Debra Stephens. The Red Mass was well attended, well received and all enjoyed the reception that followed. One justice mentioned that it was wonderful to be honored without having to make a speech.
The start of the school year also saw the largest conference ever put on at Gonzaga Law School. Professor Jason Gillmer, the John J. Hemmingson Chair in Civil Liberties was the leader behind the Race and Criminal Justice in the West Conference on Sept. 24. The conference included more than 60 panelists who presented on a depth and breadth of topics. More than 150 people from across the country attended providing a remarkable buzz in the hallway between panel presentations. One of the attendees sent us a thank you note for “hosting one of the most inspiring, educational, and action-oriented conferences I’ve ever attended.” Look for this interesting and thought-provoking conference again next year!
Gonzaga Law School, like other law schools across the nation, faces significant challenges. Law school applications are down, as are takers of the LSAT. Law students may face significant debt in a difficult job market. We face pressure over rankings in U.S. News & World Report. But on the upside, these challenges have reinforced our beliefs in the value of a legal education. We know that a law degree will serve our students well, whether they use their education in conventional practices or in less traditional applications. In response to the changing world of practice, we have and will continue to focus attention on our strong skills curriculum – Gonzaga’s innovative program puts us ahead of the curve.
I am often asked about my vision for the Law School. And while I am grateful that I get to help shape the future of this fine institution, I cannot do it alone. Together with faculty, alumni and others, we will endeavor to stay current, involved and progressive. We will build on our skills curriculum and add to it. We will strive to bring greater national attention to the Law School, and we will work to make sure students have access to legal education by providing more scholarship opportunities.