Encouraging Engaged Scholarship: Perspectives from an Associate Dean for Research
22 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2015 Last revised: 15 Sep 2016
Date Written: January 6, 2015
Today, there is little question that faculty scholarship is intimately related to the reputation of a law school, and also relatedly, to the law school rankings game. Central to this reality are some emergent administrative positions — the position of Associate Dean for Research, for example — which carry important possibilities for a law school, both internally and externally, in terms of promoting attention to scholarship. Yet this position, which has only recently emerged in law schools over the last twenty years, is also one that is largely fluid and often determined by the relative institutional capabilities of the rest of the University administration, in addition to the larger landscape of legal education. Because there is no precise one-size-fits-all model for an Associate Dean, the fluidity of the position enables us to consider a range of variables that impact scholarly visibility, both internally within a law school community, and externally within the larger scholarly world. How can we, as Associate Deans, strive to support the productivity of faculty members in these shifting times? How can Associate Deans navigate complex social relations on faculties, where issues of gender, race, class, and other variables often abound? How can we draw attention to scholarly endeavors at a time when law schools are undergoing a massive transformation for the future? How can we ensure that legal scholarship remains relevant and important? How can we value the many types of scholarly contributions that our faculty can make, without imposing a narrow view of what counts as “serious” scholarship?
Answering these questions is not an easy task. Just as there are many different types of research and scholarship, there are many different roles for an Associate Dean for Research. As Associate Dean for Research at Fordham, and one of the small number of minority women who have held this position in law school academia, I have been struck by how many of these issues can be indirectly tied to traditional, institutional questions about building a law school community. Here, questions about identity, seniority, productivity, and interdisciplinary scholarship emerge, often without clear answers. Indeed, also, identity politics — not just demographic identities, but institutional identities — affect so many of the range of questions that surround productivity and the way in which research is valued and embraced in a law school community. Mainstream law review publications, clearly, are an essential part of every law faculty in the country, and should be valued and encouraged, but an administration, should also have a greater sense of the importance of other types of engaged scholarship. In this symposium article, I draw on the history and trajectory of American Indian legal scholarship as an illustrative example of the kind of engaged scholarship that law schools should value and encourage.
Note: This paper was prepared for a symposium on the role of the law school administration in encouraging greater visibility for scholarship.
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