Jennifer M. Collins, graduate of Yale and Harvard universities and current vice provost of Wake Forest University, will join SMU this summer as the new Judge James Noel Dean of Dedman School of Law.
Collins elaborated on some of her own goals and implementations she hopes to bring July 1.
“Two huge goals for me are one, making sure that we’re giving our students the best education we possibly can and, two, getting them the best jobs that we possibly can,” Collins said.
She said one of the key roles of a dean is to do, “a lot of outreach to potential employers and alumni who can hire our graduates.” Building that base network for the law school as a whole is one of her priorities.
Skills for recent graduatess preparing to enter the workforce will likely be a key aspect of Collins’ new ideas.
“Lots of folks just don’t know how to go about the job market. Networking is hard, writing an email to someone you’ve never met…is hard,” Collins said. “You’ve got to think, ‘Are we giving [students] the educational background that they need and are we giving them the tools…they need to be successful in the job market?’”
University President R. Gerald Turner has spoken out on the school’s reputation for academic rigor and the legacy it has built already, adding that the addition of Collins will only continue to build and expand upon the strong foundation already there.
“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,” Turner said in an interview with SMU News and Communications.
Likewise, Collins plans to take advantage of the “fantastic building blocks in place” at Dedman Law currently, as well as the unique position Dallas the city offers law students.
“[Dallas] is one of the economies in that United States that’s really thriving; it has just amazing potential career options for students,” Collins explained. “Being in a larger legal market just means you can do more for students both during and after their time at law school.”
In taking from and continuing to build on her current experience as vice provost, Collins will work to further integrate the law school into the larger SMU community. She cited extensive alumni associations and mentorships between law students and law-inclined undergraduates as possibilities to implement.
“There are wonderful Boulevard parties for the law school and they’re looking at doing more social events for alumni, and those kinds of things are really important because it helps build a community,” Collins said. “Spending a lot of time listening to and engaging with alumni is another big priority.”
Following a nation-wide search for the new dean, Collins was named the successor to current Dean ad interim Julie Forrester — to whom SMU Provost Paul Ludden has expressed his gratitude for her work since last June.
“Professor Forrester provided a great service to Dedman Law, providing outstanding leadership and laying the groundwork for a smooth transition,” Ludden told SMU News and Communications.
Now eager to join the Dedman Law faculty, Collins said she looks forward to coming on board in the next few months.
“I thinks it’s really important for a new dean to come in and listen,” Collins said of joining the existing establishment. “[Listen to] what folks want, to what folks need and to what their dreams are.”