First Week on the Job: Four Questions for Dean Smith
1. What’s your favorite thing about Denver? About Colorado? I have been captivated by the city of Denver and the state of Colorado ever since I first visited here as an eight-year-old in July 1972. I was introduced to the Rocky Mountain West by my father, who had studied medicine in Denver in the early-1960s. (He still recalls seeing a very fine DU hockey team—one of the best in college hockey history—play the Soviet national team at the old DU Arena.) My photos and handwritten journal from that trip (lovingly saved, to this day) chronicle glorious hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, a visit to the gold mining town of Central City, and a tour of Denver's Capitol building. Later, as a teenager, I returned to Colorado virtually every winter to ski with my family in Summit County.
When I reflect on Colorado and Denver, I marvel at their physical grandeur, their pioneering spirit, and their capacity to reimagine and reshape themselves across time. I have always dreamed of living in this magical part of the world, and my wife, two children, and I could not be more thrilled to be here.
2. You’ve been in the legal education "trenches" for some time. What change(s) have you seen in legal education that have staying power? In recent years, legal education has become—at once—more practical and more interdisciplinary. Graduates of the nation's top law schools, such as the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, emerge with a broader and richer set of relevant skills and with a stronger understanding of law's intersection with fields such as finance, history, and organizational management. Given the increased complexity of law, and the heightened expectations of legal employers, these trends are likely to continue.
The Sturm College of Law is well positioned to advance in both respects. Under the transformative deanship of Marty Katz, my former law school classmate, Denver Law has become a recognized national leader in experiential legal education and producing practice-ready lawyers. The law school also has a strong tradition of interdisciplinary teaching and research, joining Berkeley, Wisconsin, and Northwestern as one of the first law schools in the world to understand the importance of studying law alongside fields such as economics, sociology, and psychology. We hope to build upon both important institutional legacies in the years to come.
3. Given the rapidly evolving educational landscape that you describe, how will the University of Denver Sturm College of Law continue to excel and distinguish itself in the years to come? Across its proud history, Denver Law has always been an innovator—in clinical legal education, interdisciplinary research, bar preparation, and measures designed to diversify the legal profession. In the coming years, we intend to build upon this significant track record of innovation in multiple ways.
Our paramount objective is to be a national leader in making law school more affordable and accessible to the nation's finest law students. The scholarship challenge issued by the Sturm Family Foundation in fall 2015—which, with full alumni support, has the capacity to raise $10.5 million in new endowed scholarships—is a significant, generous and visionary step in this direction. With our alumni and friends, we intend to realize the full potential of this important gift, as well as to augment it with further support for graduates working in the public interest, those seeking to study part-time, and those from both inside and outside the state who want access to relevant professional education through Master's degrees and certificates.
We also intend to equip our students to excel in a legal world increasingly transformed by technology. In the future, our graduates will emerge with an even greater understanding of the legal implications of information security, electronic discovery, and legal process outsourcing. This awareness will require the law school to engage in greater collaboration with academic disciplines across campus, including computer science, engineering, and supply chain management. And our academic law library will also need to be reinvigorated and reimagined—as a place where students not only "find the law," but where they learn information science, including the management and display of factual information. At DU, we intend to be leaders in this revolution in law and technology.
4. How do you like to unwind? I am passionate about ice hockey, which I have played since growing up in northern New York. (I have already seen a game at Magness Arena—a win over eventual national champion North Dakota, I might add—and I am looking forward to following DU hockey in the years to come!) In a more relaxing vein, I like to visit my parents' summer cottage on the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, Canada. But my greatest pleasure and joy is my family—my wife, Beth, and our two children, Charlotte (13) and Fraser (10), who—like me—are all proud to be Pioneers!
Learn more about Dean Smith.