Heather K. Gerken Reappointed Dean of Yale Law School
Over the past five years, Yale Law School (YLS) Dean Heather K. Gerken has strengthened the school’s tradition of academic excellence, strengthened support for the student body, and launched innovative new programs while navigating an unprecedented pandemic. In recognition of her record of achievement and her vision for the future, Yale President Peter Salovey reappointed Gerken for a second term as Dean on January 19.
Gerken, Sol & Lillian Goldman law professor, became dean in 2017 and is the first woman to hold the position. His next five-year term will begin on July 1.
During his first term, Gerken implemented a bold vision for Yale Law School. Among her many contributions, she has built on the institution’s rigorous intellectual environment by providing strong support for faculty scholarships and expanding academic and experiential learning opportunities for students. Gerken also launched a transformative leadership program that creates an agenda for the next century, increased student and faculty diversity, and ensured strong philanthropic support that allowed the school to thrive and provide aid. additional funding as needed.
“Members of the YLS community highlighted Dean Gerken’s dedication to the School’s mission, her record of creating innovative new programs, her advocacy for academic and clinical work, and the inspiring passion she brings every day. to his job,” Salovey said. “She has already accomplished an ambitious agenda during her first term, and I am confident that the law school will continue to benefit immensely from her vision, talent and energy in the years to come.”
Gerken is a recognized teacher and one of the nation’s leading experts on constitutional and electoral law. After arriving in New Haven in 2006, she founded and still directs one of the most inventive local government legal clinics, the San Francisco Affirmative Litigation Project. Throughout his deanship, Gerken spoke passionately about how Yale Law School’s ambitious educational model generates a “distinctive blend of practice and theory” that provides students with a wide-ranging and versatile legal education.
Salovey reappointed Gerken for a second term on the recommendation of the Dean’s Review Advisory Committee, chaired by Douglas Kysar, Joseph M. Field ’55 Professor of Law.
“Dean Gerken is a champion of our community and has achieved a remarkable set of goals in her first term while guiding us through an extraordinarily difficult time,” said Kysar. “His tireless work on behalf of this institution has greatly enhanced our intellectual life and positioned the law school to lead the future.”
Under Gerken’s leadership, the law school has admitted the five most diverse classes in its history with some of the highest returns ever, attracting talented students from around the world with a strong track record of academic performance and accomplishments. exceptional. In the 10 years to 2016, an average of 32% of the student body were students of color. In the class of 2024, about 54% are students of color and just over half are women. More than a quarter of the class is the first in their family to attend graduate or vocational school and about one in six are the first in their family to graduate from college. Gerken and his administration have worked diligently to provide financial, professional, and mentorship support to students who come to law school without existing networks or financial support. She also helped nearly triple the number of veterans attending Yale Law School by expanding recruitment efforts and participation in the Yellow Ribbon program. Additionally, Gerken remains steadfast in its commitment to increasing faculty diversity, often partnering with other parts of the University to bring in renowned scholars from a wide range of fields.
One of Gerken’s top priorities as Dean is to ensure that all students have access to the world-class legal education that Yale Law School offers, regardless of their financial means. During his first term, Gerken significantly strengthened the law school’s enduring commitment to need-based financial aid by strengthening existing programs, adding new scholarships for students most in need, and establishing a fund. security to help struggling students. Yale Law School is one of the few law schools in the nation to provide financial aid solely based on need, and nearly 70% of students received a scholarship in the 2020-2021 academic year.
“Through her fundraising efforts and astute financial planning, Dean Gerken has steered the School through the turmoil of the pandemic and kept it on a sound financial footing, enabling the institution to thrive and grow. ensure that she will remain a leader in legal education for decades to come, Salovey said.
Throughout his deanship, Gerken championed the remarkable legacy of Yale Law School graduates who brought about change in all sectors of society. To build on this storied history, Dean Gerken worked with faculty and alumni to launch the Tsai Leadership Program in November 2021. This innovative program aims to redefine the future of legal education, giving faculty the ability to design a broad curriculum while providing professional training and mentoring opportunities for students. Its goals are to ensure that every graduate is ready to take on the greatest challenges of our time and to illuminate the many career paths available to them.
“Through this program and many other initiatives, Dean Gerken has strengthened bonds within Yale Law School’s vibrant alumni community,” said Salovey.
In his announcement, Salovey also remarked on the numerous notes he has received describing Gerken’s dedication to the school’s mission and his ability to nurture and maintain a sense of community, even during the pandemic, “that whether it is her practice of calling each new admission or the time she devotes to learning more about the work, perspectives and interests of faculty, staff, students and alumni.
“Dean Gerken led the law school at an uncharted time, always remaining optimistic about the future and focused on the faculty’s excellence in teaching, scholarship and service,” Salovey added.
Looking ahead, Gerken said she was excited to build on the progress of the past five years. She will focus her second term on expanding access to law school by increasing scholarships for students most in need, hiring new faculty, and supporting the remarkable intellectual community that has always been at the heart of the faculty. by right of Yale.
Gerken wished to thank the Dean Review Committee, which in addition to Professor Kysar included Anne Alstott ’87, Jacquin D. Bierman Professor in Taxation; Fiona Doherty ’99, clinical professor of law; Justin Driver, Robert R. Slaughter Professor of Law; Paul Gewirtz ’70, Potter Stewart Professor of Constitutional Law; Claire Priest ’01, Simeon E. Baldwin Professor of Law; James Silk ’89, Binger Clinical Professor of Human Rights; and Taisu Zhang ’08, professor of law.
“It has been a tremendous honor to lead this law school for the past five years, and I am humbled by the trust President Salovey, the faculty, and members of this community have placed in me,” Gerken said. “I am impressed with all that we have accomplished together as a community, even during this difficult time in our country’s history, and I look forward to building on our best traditions as we collectively prepare for this institution. both the challenges and the opportunities that lie ahead. .”