Dean, Widener University Commonwealth Law School | Harrisburg, PA

Widener University Commonwealth Law School (WLC) invites applications, expressions of interest, and nominations of candidates to be the next Dean.

About Widener Law Commonwealth

WLC is a small, close-knit, collegial law school committed, above all, to our students’ success.  WLC’s supportive community of teachers, staff, and alumni is dedicated to providing our students with a personal, practical, and professional legal education.  We work together to provide an education that values each individual student and emphasizes individual attention.  Our goal is to transform promising students into skilled lawyers—whether in government or in the private sector—who know the law and use the law to solve problems, and who are engaged as leaders in their communities.  We view as crucial to this mission a dedication to excellent and innovative teaching, engagement in scholarship that enriches our teaching and the development of the law, and participation in public service.  These activities—teaching, scholarship, and service—enrich the institution and provide models for students in their personal, practical, and professional development.

WLC is the only law school in Pennsylvania’s capital, and takes pride in its connections with Pennsylvania state government.  WLC’s Law and Government Institute brings policymakers to students and prepares students for careers in public service.  The Environmental Law and Sustainability Center and the Business Advising Program similarly take advantage of WLC’s connection to state government in ensuring that our students are not only prepared to counsel clients but to lead in reforming the law and advancing justice.

WLC’s students reflect diverse experiences and backgrounds; 36% of students in the 2022 entering class are from historically underrepresented backgrounds (including 10% Black, 17% Hispanic/Latino, 8% Asian, and 1% Indigenous), and 16% are LGBTQ+.  One-third of our students are the first in their families to attend college and 86% are the first in their families to attend law school.  WLC is proud of its extended division, which, since the school’s opening in 1989, has provided an opportunity for dedicated students to pursue a law degree while balancing other work and family responsibilities; many extended-division students come to WLC several years after college, bringing experiences gained from time in other careers.

WLC is located in a serene suburban community a short drive from the State Capitol in downtown Harrisburg.  Harrisburg’s low cost of living and ample recreational opportunities, including the Appalachian Trail and the Susquehanna River, make it an ideal location for work-life balance.  Central Pennsylvania—situated less than two hours from Philadelphia and Baltimore and three and one-half hours from Pittsburgh and New York City—brings together a dynamic mix of communities and industry, including charming Lancaster County and the birthplace of the world-famous Hershey chocolate factory.  The successful candidate will strengthen relationships between WLC and its neighboring communities.

Because Widener Law Commonwealth is located on a standalone campus, the Dean will exercise extraordinary responsibility in areas not typically in a dean’s portfolio, including facilities, campus safety, information technology, and other operational areas. Although the Dean has daily engagement with these matters, they are formally managed by subject-matter experts at the Chester Campus.

Desired Qualities and Characteristics

The Dean will be the chief administrative officer of WLC.  The Dean will advocate for WLC’s interests and promote its mission in interactions with multiple constituencies, including students, faculty, university administration, alumni, ABA, AALS, and the public.  Accordingly, it is essential that the Dean be dedicated to, and adept at, communicating with a variety of audiences, in both formal and informal ways.  Personal interaction with students, faculty, and staff on a nearly daily basis is essential, and the Dean must be approachable by—and value the contributions of—all the diverse voices at WLC.  Applicants should have a leadership style that emphasizes consensus-building and transparency, as well as demonstrated appreciation and support for shared governance.

There is a significant opportunity for donors to have a positive impact on WLC by providing assistance with student success in law school and on the bar exam, as well as for faculty scholarship and public service. The Dean should have a strong entrepreneurial spirit and should be a strong and effective advocate for the law school in communicating these needs and in explaining why the law school and its students are worthy of investment.

Additionally, the Dean must strive to raise WLC’s profile among potential students and the legal community, so as to recruit talented students; to provide them exceptional opportunities like meaningful internships, externships, and student activities while at WLC; and to assist them in obtaining permanent employment upon graduation.

The successful candidate must possess a J.D. or a comparable degree; an established record as an exceptional teacher and scholar or comparable professional achievement meriting appointment as a tenured professor; significant administrative experience; significant fundraising experience or comparable experience indicating the ability to be a successful fundraiser; outstanding communication and leadership skills; and the ability to relate effectively to a variety of internal and external constituencies.

About Widener University

As the university celebrates more than 200 years of excellence, we’re making history—reflecting on our storied past and looking toward an even-brighter future. We respond with agility and resolve to the challenges of our time, ensuring our students’ success with timely guidance and innovative solutions.

Our Mission

Empowering our community of learners to discover and create better futures.

Our Values

Widener University is committed to the core values of respect, integrity, and excellence, to which we hold ourselves accountable.

  • Respect – We care for and honor the dignity of all in our community.
  • Integrity – We stand courageously, in thought and action, for what is ethical.
  • Excellence – We hold ourselves to the highest standards and support others in our community to achieve excellence in all they do.

Our Guiding Principles

We’re all Widener. In the core of our culture lies a powerful commitment to respect, mutual understanding, and unity. We take great pride in being a welcoming and inclusive community—one that celebrates the value and dignity of each individual, and weaves together a rich diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives.

The Widener experience is distinguished by dynamic teaching, active scholarship, personal attention, experiential learning, and industry-specific leadership development. We are dedicated to engaging our students in transformational opportunities that broaden their worldview and prepare them for the world and the workforce.

These values are reflected in rigorous academic expectations and high-impact educational practices that promote student engagement and learning. Whether seeking a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree, Widener students elevate their learning through intensive, collaborative, community-based experiences—at home and abroad.

Strategy and Building for the Future

Building on a bold vision and significant institutional momentum, the university launched a transformative process in 2019—to think about the future of everything we do and to reimagine student support services to meet the demands of a radically shifting world. A clear strategy emerged from this work: a focus on institutional nimbleness and the enhancement of the student experience we call “Agility Experienced.” Like its development, the implementation of our strategy is dynamic and bold, with a focus on leveraging the tenets of design thinking and user experience. A metaphor that has become fundamental to our work is that the people of Widener build with “LEGO blocks” rather than “poured concrete.”

In short, through clear-eyed assessment and flexible thinking, we will maximize agility and continuous improvement.

This Agility Experienced strategy is constantly enlarged and reinforced as we enact it everywhere and invite ideas and examples from across the university. As the people and departments of Widener achieve the potential of Agility Experienced, we’ll increase our capacity to adapt to rapid change and to position the university for continued success.

Academics

The university’s seven schools and colleges offer associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, as well as professional certificate programs.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Advancing a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion is a major priority at Widener University. Under the ethos We’re All Widener, the university community unites to engage in difficult conversations, rethink curriculum and policy, and take action to deepen understanding and respect within our community. In the wake of recent nationwide discussions centered on diversity, equity, and inclusion, Widener has:

  • Developed effective methods for diversifying faculty applicant pools and mentoring new faculty
  • Leveraged campus-wide dialogues and hosted programming focused on such topics as systemic racism, LGBTQ allyship, and interfaith dialogue
  • Engaged faculty and staff in a 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge
  • Introduced new and revitalized committees to promote DE&I efforts, including the reorganized Diversity Leadership and Inclusion Council (DLIC); and the new DLIC Student Advocates Task Force;
  • Evolved the university’s approach to student recruitment and hiring practices to attract a more diverse community

We have made significant and measurable progress through changes in leadership, processes and procedures, professional development, curriculum, faculty diversity, and student outcomes. While we are proud of this momentum, our work continues.

Campuses

Widener has three campuses.  The Chester, Pennsylvania campus houses the majority of all undergraduate and graduate programs.  The Harrisburg, Pennsylvania campus houses the Commonwealth Law School as well as a satellite program for the School of Nursing.  The Wilmington, Delaware campus houses the Delaware Law School.

Application Procedure

Nominations and applications (letters of interest, resume/CV and contact information of at least five references), or expressions of interest should be submitted to Parker Executive Search, at the e-mail addresses below.  Review of materials will continue until the appointment is made.  It is preferred, however, that all nominations and applications be submitted by November 21, 2022.

Porsha Williams, Vice President
Erin Raines, Senior Principal
Parker Executive Search
[email protected] | [email protected]
770-804-1996 ext. 109 | 770-804-1996 ext. 117