SWLAW Blog | Diversity

Dean Darby is Southwestern's Next DEAN

April 22, 2021

Southwestern's Next Dean is Darby Dickerson!

Earlier this week, Southwestern's Board Chair, Charles P. Fairchild, announced that Darby Dickerson is the law school's next dean! The students were also treated to a playful greeting from Dean Dickerson donning a Southwestern Law  sweatshirt and a plush PAT:

Paraphrased from Mr. Fairchild's official announcement:

I am extremely pleased to announce that Southwestern’s next President and Dean is Darby Dickerson, the current Dean at UIC John Marshall Law School and Immediate Past President of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS). Her five-year term begins on July 1st. Dean Dickerson is Southwestern’s twelfth dean and only the second woman in that role. She is succeeding Susan Westerberg Prager’s historic and successful eight-year tenure.

Dean Dickerson's first act as our incoming dean is making a $125,000.00 donation for diversity scholarships.

I look forward to joining the Southwestern Law community this summer," Dickerson said.  I have been so impressed with the students, faculty, staff, alumni, and board members I met during the interview process.  I can't wait to meet you all and work with you to build on the strengths and successes of this amazing law school. We live in challenging times, but with challenges, there are always opportunities. And Southwestern is a place of incredible opportunity.  Securing more student scholarships and deepening the school's commitment to antiracism, diversity, equity, and inclusion are two of my top priorities. To express my thanks for the opportunity to serve as your next President and Dean, I am pleased to announce a $125,000 gift for diversity scholarships.

~Dean Darby Dickerson

Over her career, Dean Dickerson has exemplified many of Southwestern’s core values, including inclusion and accessibility, successfully pairing them with academic excellence.

Dean Dickerson is one of the most experienced and versatile law school deans in the nation, having served as Dean or Interim Dean at four law schools since 2003.

Her vast experience includes online education, multiple J.D. and concurrent degree programming, fall and spring start programs, study abroad programs, certificate programs, and other creative and innovative initiatives and supplemental income streams.

As a leader, Dean Dickerson promoted and achieved positive change at every institution.

Her academic career started in 1995 when she joined Stetson University College of Law and was quickly promoted to positions of increasing responsibility—including Director of Legal Research and Writing, Associate Dean, Vice Dean, and Interim Dean—and was named Vice President and Dean in February 2004 following a national search.

While at the helm of Stetson University College of Law (2003 - 2011), the school started a wide range of new graduate, certificate, dual-degree, foreign-study, and experiential-learning programs and recruited a diverse group of passionate teachers and engaged scholars from elite law firms, government organizations, higher-ranked law schools, and the international arena. The student body improved quality and diversity, senior staff positions were professionalized, and she implemented multiple employee appreciation and recognition programs.

At Texas Tech University School of Law (2011-2016), she strengthened and further diversified the faculty; provided support and incentives to increase faculty publications placed in Top-50 and -100 journals significantly; developed the unique Academy for Leadership in the Legal Profession for students; created a statewide externship program; implemented a Public Service Graduation Requirement; designed a flex-schedule program for J.D. students who could not attend law school full time; expanded student and bar-preparation services; and, raised substantial amounts for endowed and annual gifts.

She became Dean of The John Marshall Law School in 2016. Like Southwestern, John Marshall was a private independent law school and the most diverse law school in its region. John Marshall had a full-time J.D. program, a part-time evening J.D. program, a part-time day J.D. program, an M.J. program, and multiple LL.M. programs. After leading the 2019  merger of John Marshall into the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC), she became the Inaugural Dean of UIC John Marshall Law School—Chicago’s first and only public law school.
At John Marshall, she improved faculty diversity (to 38% faculty of color and 45% women); created an Office of Student Life and Leadership that included a Title IX and Disabilities Coordinator; created a Student Support and Emergency Team; expanded and improved the onsite Counseling Center; created a food pantry and Professional Clothes Closet; improved entering student credentials; and revamped the academic support and bar preparation programs.

Dean Dickerson led John Marshall through the COVID-19 global pandemic; developed a new strategic framework; created an Antiracism Coordinating Committee; initiated an antiracism audit; established a Social Justice and Antiracism Fund to support the work of faculty by providing funds to hire research assistants; and created a Success Network program for 1L students.

Upon learning of Dean Dickerson's appointment, Dean Prager said:

Darby Dickerson is a person of tremendous energy, enthusiasm, and effectiveness. These qualities, combined with her extensive experience and positive spirit, give me tremendous confidence that she will be a great leader for Southwestern.  This is a special place with a collaborative spirit, and I predict that she will love Southwestern students and deeply appreciate the efforts of the staff, faculty, and graduates who do so much to support them just as I have.

~Dean Susan Westerberg Prager

Dean Dickerson has also contributed to national legal community organizations, as well as community ones. In addition to serving as an officer and executive committee member of the AALS, she is an elected member of the American Law Institute, is a past president and current board member of Scribes—The Society of American Legal Writers, served on the National Conference of Bar Examiner’s Test Design Committee during 2020, and has been active in the American Inns of Court movement. She is a volunteer microfinance loan editor for Kiva.org, has served as a “Big” with Big Brothers Big Sisters, and is a former President of the Tampa Bay Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Please give President and Dean Darby Dickerson the warmest of welcomes to our community.

SW ID ombre

(Please see Dean Dickerson’s Faculty Profile for more details about her career, scholarship, education, affiliations, and awards.)