Jennifer M. Collins named new SMU law dean

SMU’s new law dean is a scholar at the intersection of criminal and family law whose background includes extensive academic administration experience as well as service as a federal prosecutor. Jennifer M. Collins will begin her duties as the Judge James Noel Dean of Dedman School of Law on Tuesday, July 1, 2014,

Collins comes to SMU from Wake Forest University, where she currently serves as vice provost. Collins has been on the law school faculty at Wake Forest since 2003 and was named associate provost in 2010 and vice provost in September 2013. She has continued to teach courses on gender and the law and legal professionalism while serving in the provost’s office.

“We are delighted to welcome Jennifer Collins to SMU and Dallas,” said Paul Ludden, SMU provost and vice president for academic affairs. “She is a brilliant legal scholar and an outstanding academic administrator. Her experience as associate provost at Wake Forest has provided her with a campus-wide perspective that will be invaluable in leading Dedman School of Law at SMU.”

“The Dedman School of Law can be proud of the reputation it has built for academic rigor, as well as its excellent record in preparing students to practice in prestigious law firms,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “Because Jennifer Collins’ career spans a lengthy tenure as a federal prosecutor as well as serving in academia, she is uniquely positioned to continue the Dedman School of Law tradition of preparing men and women to enter a competitive legal market.”

Collins graduated magna cum laude with a J.D. from Harvard University in 1991, and received her B.A. in history, cum laude with Distinction in the Major, from Yale University in 1987.

“I am absolutely delighted to be joining the SMU community,” Collins said. “I loved having the opportunity to meet with terrific, dedicated faculty and staff, and truly outstanding students, during my visit to campus, and I am eager to work together to address the challenges currently facing legal education. I cannot imagine an institution better positioned to respond to those challenges than the Dedman School of Law, and it is a great privilege to become part of the SMU family.”

Collins clerked for the Hon. Dorothy W. Nelson in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit after graduating from Harvard Law School, and worked briefly in private practice in Washington, D.C., before joining the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel as an attorney-adviser in 1993. Collins served in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia from 1994 to 2002, working in the homicide section for the last six of those years and prosecuting more than 30 jury trials.

She returned briefly to private practice in 2002 and joined the faculty of Wake Forest University School of Law in 2003. While at Wake Forest, Collins has taught criminal law, criminal procedure, family law, and gender and the law. She is the 2009 winner of the Jurist Excellence in Teaching Award, selected by the graduating class of the law school, and the 2010 recipient of the Joseph Branch Excellence in Teaching Award, selected by the dean of the law school.

Collins became associate provost for academic and strategic initiatives at Wake Forest in 2010, where she spearheaded the university’s entry into the online and distance education market and developed new initiatives to increase diversity and inclusion across campus. She promoted efforts to examine the relevance and value of a liberal arts education and coordinated a large-scale strategic planning effort to improve campus culture for Wake Forest students.

Collins’ legal research has focused on issues involving families and the criminal justice system, including the prosecution of parents who are responsible for their children’s deaths. She is the author, with Dan Markel and Ethan Lieb, of Privilege or Punish? Criminal Justice and The Challenge of Family Ties, published by Oxford University Press in 2009, and has written many other law review articles and essays.

Provost Ludden expressed thanks to Julie Forrester, an award-winning scholar in property law, who has served since June 1 as Dean ad interim for Dedman School of Law. “Professor Forrester provided a great service to Dedman Law, providing outstanding leadership and laying the groundwork for a smooth transition,” Ludden said.

Collins, who was selected after a nationwide search, succeeds John Attanasio, who served as dean for three terms, from 1998 to 2013.

Written by Denise Gee

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