Washburn University to say goodbye to School of Law Dean after graduation

Published: Mar. 18, 2022 at 11:10 AM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Washburn University will say goodbye to School of Law Dean Carla Pratt after the school’s spring graduation.

Washburn University says Law School Dean Carla Pratt will step down from her role after the school’s 2022 spring commencement ceremony.

After almost 4 years of service to the school of law, Washburn said Pratt will return to her home state of Oklahoma to serve as the inaugural Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Chair in Civil Rights, Race and Justice in Law at OU.

The University said the new position was created to honor Dr. Fisher as the first African-American to enroll and graduate from the University of Oklahoma College of Law. It said Pratt will start her appointment, which is contingent on a final vote of the OU Board of Regents in the summer.

“During Dean Pratt’s tenure, Washburn Law has further established itself as a leader in legal education,” said Washburn University President Jerry Farley. “Her strategic vision has helped increase the national reputation of the school and her enthusiasm for the institution has strengthened the relationship with alumni and the legal community.”

Washburn said Pratt was named dean of the law school in 2018 after a national search. She helped lead the school to complete a fundraising campaign for a new law school building. It said she also led the pivot to virtual education and met the many challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under Pratt’s leadership, the University said the law school launched curricular reform boasted as a “revolutionary” change in legal education by national media outlets for the “Third year Anywhere enrollment option.”

Washburn said the program allows students in their last year of law school the chance to increase practice-readiness by finishing an externship in the area where they plan to practice after graduation.

“Dean Pratt helped Washburn Law make a real difference in the lives of our students and in legal education,” said Dr. Juliann Mazachek, vice president of academic affairs. “The Third Year Anywhere program is a tremendous innovation. This signature program provides unique educational pathways for those seeking to practice law.”

Mazacheck noted Pratt modeled an active teaching and scholarly career while she also undertook a recent administrative role. She has presented to various organizations and institutions including the American Bar Association, the Association of American Law Schools and the Society of American Law Teachers.

Washburn also noted Pratt is a member of the ABA Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar and was recently appointed to the Board of Helix, the AccessLex non-profit bar preparation meant to make preparation for the bar exam accessible to everyone.

The University said Pratt has taught courses in Constitutional law, Federal Indian Law, and Race and American law as well as has produced scholarship at the intersection of these areas with an emphasis on understanding the role of identity in law and legal institutions.

In addition to her scholarly pursuits, Washburn said Pratt has been a strong advocate for student wellness and made it one of her priorities while she supported the creation of a student organization devoted to law student wellness. She has also been a leader in diversity and inclusion through the improvement of the diversity of the adjunct faculty of law and working on the national level to create a framework for law schools to become more equitable.

“Serving as dean at Washburn Law has been a privilege and an honor,” Pratt said. “The law school has an exceptional faculty and staff who are devoted to students, and our alumni are so supportive of the law school and our amazing students,” said Pratt. “Since its inception in 1903, Washburn has provided an inclusive legal education for thousands of students, regardless of their identity, and I am proud to have been a small part of the school’s continued legacy of inclusive legal education.”

Washburn said it plans to name an interim dean before Pratt’s departure in the spring. It said the interim dean will serve while the university hosts a national search for a permanent dean of the School of Law.

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