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SMU Law Dean Jennifer Collins On 'Moving The Needle'

Krystina Martinez
Jennifer Collins is the first permanent female dean in the history of the Dedman School of Law.

There’s a new face leading the top law school in North Texas for the first time in nearly two decades. Jennifer Collins becomes the first female dean of SMU’s Dedman School of Law at a challenging time. Fewer students are applying to law schools nationwide, competition is rising, and her predecessor, John Attanasio was ousted last year.

Fresh off a decade in North Carolina at Wake Forest, Collins sits down with KERA’s vice president of news, Rick Holter, for this week’s Friday Conversation.

  Interview Highlights: Jennifer Collins…

…on her most memorable case as a federal prosecutor: “The murder case that definitely still sticks with me was actually a murder case that involved a college campus, it was a series of murders that occurred at Gallaudet University, it’s the premiere university for the deaf in Washington D.C. It’s a very close-knit community and when they found out it was one of their own that had murdered two of his fellow students, it was really devastating. The two young men who were killed were students who had overcome tremendous adversity in their life, learning to work with their deafness and going off to a university, and then just to be brutally cut down in their freshman year by a classmate was just a devastating experience for the whole community.”

…on boosting SMU’s ranking: “Rankings are notoriously sticky. The University of Rochester just did a really fascinating study where they determined it would take something like a billion dollars to move one or two places in the rankings. So one of the most important things I think that we need to do is be sure that we are doing the best work we possibly can, that we’re giving our students the best education with the best job outcomes and that the rest of the legal community throughout the United States knows about the amazing work our faculty is doing and the success our students are having. If we do that, I’m hopeful the rankings will follow.”

…on law school competition in North Texas: “I welcome the addition of Texas A&M and the University of North Texas. Dallas has really been unique among major cities in only having one law school, many smaller cities survive with many more law schools. And I think it’s an opportunity to make sure we’re serving the citizens of Dallas as effectively as we can. There are so many desperate legal needs out there,  just look at what’s happening with the immigrant crisis on the border, and if our students and UNT’s students can play a role in helping with that situation, so much the better. And I also think it’s a chance to create an even richer intellectual community among the various law schools in Dallas.”

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.