by Joe King
Established in 1974, the NIU College of Law is young by some standards, but it might feel like an old and established institution to its newly appointed dean.
Jennifer Rosato comes to NIU from Drexel University in Philadelphia where she was part of the administrative team that created and launched the Earle Mack School of Law. She served as acting dean during the school’s first year of operation (July 2006-April 2007) and was a consultant on the project for a year prior. The experience she gained in those roles, Rosato says, will be useful when she takes over the top spot at NIU Law on July 1, 2009.
“At Drexel we had to think about everything from scratch,” she says. “It gave us the opportunity to examine traditional legal education from top to bottom and to consider what works well, and what could be improved. It provided me with a unique perspective that I think will be useful as I help NIU Law realize its potential.”
Those insights were but one of the attributes that made Rosato stand out in an excellent field of candidates culled from a national search, says NIU Executive Vice President and Provost Raymond Alden III, but it was far from the only thing that made her a good fit.
“Dean Rosato provides an excellent mix of experience, enthusiasm and leadership skills,” says Alden. “The insights she gleaned in helping to open the doors at Drexel, combined with her outstanding record of scholarship and leadership in nearly two decades as a legal educator, make her a wonderful candidate to assume the mantle of leadership at NIU Law.”
Alden’s excitement at bringing Rosato on board is shared by NIU President John Peters.
“This was a long and deliberate search. We were looking for an individual with exceptional skills, high energy and personal charisma to build on the strengths of the college and elevate its profile. In Dean Rosato we have found that person,” says Peters, who will recommend her to the NIU Board of Trustees later this spring.
For her part, Rosato says that the NIU job was attractive for a number of reasons. One of the aspects that appealed to her was NIU Law’s commitment to diversity.
“I have benefitted greatly from increased opportunities that others worked to create in the legal profession. I am excited to become part of those efforts at NIU Law, which has long been a leader in expanding access to legal education” says Rosato, who will become one of only two Latina law school deans in the nation and the second woman to hold the title of dean at NIU Law.
The school received the 2007 Diversity Award from the Council on Legal Education Opportunity and has been ranked in the top 10 for faculty diversity by the Princeton Review for the past four years.
The college’s long history of preparing students for careers in public interest law also fits well with her belief in emphasizing service in the legal profession. As dean, she pledges to work to find new opportunities for the college to interact with and serve the university and the broader community.
Prior to her time at Drexel, Rosato was the associate dean for Student Affairs at Brooklyn Law School, where she also served as co-director of the Center for Health, Science and Public Policy and as professor of law. She began teaching at Brooklyn in 1992, and before that taught at Villanova University School of Law. Since entering the academy, she also has taught at University of Pennsylvania Law School and New York University School of Law.
Her scholarship focuses on diverse legal issues that affect children and families, with an emphasis on issues related to bioethics.
Rosato earned her J.D. degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she was editor-in-chief of the University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Business Law and won the Edwin R. Keedy Moot Court Competition.
She clerked for the Hon. Thomas N. O’Neill Jr. of the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, before becoming an associate with Hangley, Connolly, Epstein, Chicco, Foxman & Ewing.
Roger Dennis, dean of Drexel Law, wishes Rosato well, adding that the college is deeply indebted to her for her role in its founding and its successful launch.
“Jennifer Rosato has a tremendous work ethic and boundless energy,” Dennis says. “She is an accomplished scholar, a skilled teacher and a terrific administrator. I am familiar with NIU Law and I think she is a terrific fit there. I fully expect that she will lead the college to new heights.”
Northern Illinois University College of Law was born under the name of Lewis University College of Law in 1974. The first class graduated in 1978, and in 1979, it officially became Northern Illinois University College of Law. Rosato will replace LeRoy Pernell as dean. Pernell led the law school for a decade, leaving NIU in January 2008. Interim Dean Malcolm L. Morris has been at the helm since Pernell’s departure.