Law school dean steps down, moves into provost’s cabinet

GW Law School dean Paul Schiff Berman will step down in January to assume a new position under Provost Steven Lerman. Berman was hired in April 2011. Hatchet File Photo.

Updated on Nov. 12, 2012 at 4:32 p.m.

This post was written by Hatchet news editors Sarah Ferris and Cory Weinberg.

Dean of the GW Law School Paul Schiff Berman announced Monday that he will step down as head of the No. 20 ranked school next January.

Berman, who has been in his post for about 18 months, was tapped by Provost Steven Lerman for the new position of vice provost for online education and academic innovation.

“I leave the deanship with mixed emotions, but with a sense of gratification regarding all that the law school has achieved over the past year,” Berman wrote in an email to the law school community.

As the second newest dean at GW, Berman bolstered fundraising, expanded student programming, and built up specialty programs in energy, health and cybersecurity law. He also oversaw a record low admissions cycle last spring, and made national headlines for choosing to enroll a freshmen class that was 10 percent smaller than past years.

When describing his new position, Berman said he was “excited by the new challenge.”

“In this role, I will help to craft a long-term strategy for GW’s growth in these new educational frontiers, where academic excellence and academic innovation meet.  Such growth is obviously crucial to the future of the University and its global footprint,” he wrote.

Lerman announced the shift in a release, citing Berman’s successes as a “champion of innovation.”

“I have asked Dean Berman to take on this new challenge as part of the university’s efforts to realize the great promise of online and hybrid education. This new position will help us develop strategies for how to utilize new technologies to create innovative and effective programs for our students,” Lerman said.

The GW release did not announce plans for an imminent dean search or who would take over as interim dean in January. The University is already searching for a leader for its largest college – Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. University spokeswoman Candace Smith said plans for the interim dean and the national search process are still in the works.

The last law school dean search was executed in about six months two years ago after former dean Frederick Lawrence left the school in winter 2010. Berman was hired away from Arizona State University in April 2011.

The move appeared to be kept under wraps. Two law school associate deans, Susan Karamanian and Lee Paddock, said they first heard the news in the email announcement to faculty this afternoon.

“We now have to go through a search. I’m a bit surprised,” Karamanian said. “It’ll give us a chance to come together to pick someone to lead the school.”

She praised Berman’s leadership in helping the school look toward a more global future and said he would be headed to India soon as part of international outreach. “He was the force behind that,” she said.

Thomas Morgan, a professor of antitrust and trade regulation law, said he figured the University would eye a bigger role for him because he is an “active and vigorous leader,” but added his departure would not harm the law school.

“Anytime there’s change, there’s a cost to transition, but the school is in very good shape and it’ll move ahead without skipping a beat,” Morgan said.

The new position raises questions about GW’s future plans for online education, an area that universities worldwide are targeting for major growth. The University has steadily built up online and hybrid programs over the last several years, but has stopped short of committing to building its own massive open online courses, or MOOCs. Smith said while it may not mean MOOCs are in GW’s immediate future, she said the post is “something that provost has been thinking about for awhile.”

The role also adds to the growth of the provost’s office, which added Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning Stephen Ehrmann last fall and Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Terri Harris Reed in April 2011. The office is also searching for a new vice provost of budget and finance.

Lerman, GW’s second in command, has picked up influence, responsibilities and staffers since he took over the University’s student life operations last spring and admissions oversight this summer.

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