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University of Memphis law school appoints first female dean in its history

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Katharine Traylor Schaffzin 8613 UofM TC 20181129

Katharine Schaffzin

The University of Memphis recently announced Katherine Schaffzin as the new dean of the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, making her the first female dean in the history of the law school.

Since last year, she was promoted to interim dean when former Dean Peter Letsou returned to a faculty position in the law school. Thomas Nenon, the executive vice president, provost and professor of philosophy, believed she was the perfect candidate for the job after recently serving as interim dean.

“In the process of the interviews and public meetings,” Nenon said. “It became clear that Katherine Schaffzin had a clear understanding of the mission of the Law Schools and by far the best understanding of its strengths and challenges, along with a vision about how to take advantage of those strengths to meet the challenges facing this law school and others across the country.”

Nenon also said one clear indication of Schaffzin’s qualification status was her recent ability to master these challenges when she played a key role as associate dean and interim dean. He said she improved the recruitment efforts that led to an enrollment increase of over 10% in the law school at Memphis at a time when they were declining at many other schools in the country.

Schaffzin joined the law school faculty in 2009 as an assistant professor and received promotions throughout the years, eventually becoming a full-time professor. In Fall 2016, she was selected by the Faculty Senate at the UofM to serve on the Board of Trustees, holding the role of chair of the Academic, Research and Student Success Committee.

Mary Morris, a clinical assistant professor of law, said Schaffzin’s resume and achievements within the school spoke for itself in the decision making and voting process.

“She has strong relationships with the legal community and with the university’s leaders,” Morris said. “Her experience on the Board of Trustees gives her the valuable insight into upper-level management of the university.”

Morris also said Schaffzin, in her prior term as interim dean, orchestrated significant funding for out-of-state diversity scholarships to help recruit students in a “revenue neutral” way, allowing the two largest entering classes in recent memory.

Schaffzin said in public she is humbled and honored by the descision and now feels ready to take on the next step of a big responsibility.

“I am excited by the potential we have as a law school working together to impact the lives of our students and the legal community in Memphis and beyond,” Schaffzin said. “I am prioritizing student success by emphasizing improved learning outcomes for all students. Further, I am committed to the law school’s role in diversifying the legal profession and will focus my efforts on expanding the recruitment and retention of diverse students at Memphis Law.”

As the first woman in the history of Memphis law to be named dean, Schaffzin has potential to be a beacon for many young female students in the law school.

Boris Mamlyuk, an associate professor of law, said the best way to culminate her election was with one inspiring quote that can and will propel the exuberant future of law in Memphis.

“Every time we lift a glass ceiling, we get a better view of the path ahead,” Mamlyuk said.

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