The University of Cincinnati's Law School Appoints First Black Dean

Verna L. Williams has been appointed dean of the University of Cincinnati’s College of Law. She is the first African American dean at the law college. Williams, who has been a faculty member since 2001, had been serving as the interim dean and Nippert Professor of Law since May 2017, according to a press release from the university. She officially started her job as a full-time dean on April 1.

“I am confident Verna’s strong leadership and progressive vision for the college coupled with her legal practice in both the public and private sectors will continue to propel the College of Law forward,” UC Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Kristi A. Nelson said in the statement.

Williams will help implement Next Lives Here, a strategic program to “propel the university through the next 10 years and lead urban public universities into a new era of innovation and impact,” according to the university’s statement. “I’m thrilled and honored to be asked to continue the College of Law’s positive trajectory,” Williams said in the announcement. “I look forward to working with the university and our regional community to teach and graduate future legal innovators.”

Williams earned the rank of professor at UC’s law school in 2006; she held the title Judge Joseph P. Kinneary Professor of law from 2013 to 2017. During her time at the law school, she co-founded and co-directed UC’s Center for Race, Gender and Social Justice, and co-directed the university’s joint-degree program in Law and Women’s Studies, according to her faculty profile. She received the Goldman Prize for Teaching Excellence in 2004 and 2011.

Williams told The North Star that being a dean was not in her career plan. She enjoyed being a professor at the law school, where she taught courses on constitutional law, family law, and gender and the law. “I thought additional administrative work would be horrible. By the end of my first week, I knew it was the right fit for me and I was ready for a change,” she said.

Before joining the faculty at the university, Williams practiced law at the Department of Justice. She also served as vice president and director of educational opportunities at the National Women’s Law Center, where she concentrated on issues of gender equity in education. She received her undergraduate degree in Spanish from Georgetown University in Washington, DC and earned her J.D. from Harvard Law School — which she attended with former First Lady Michelle Obama. Williams worked with Obama for two years on her memoir, Becoming.

Williams said she never expected to be the first Black person in anything in her life, but she told The North Star that she is sure she will not be the last dean of color at the fourth oldest continuously operating law school in the US. “I’m happy that we got to a place where I can be the first African American dean and I am sure I will not be the last one,” said Williams.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.