UVA Reappoints Dean Risa Goluboff

Risa Goluboff

Risa Goluboff is the Arnold H. Leon Professor of Law and Professor of History at the University of Virginia. Photo by Jesús Pino

December 7, 2020

The University of Virginia has appointed Risa Goluboff to a second term as dean of the University of Virginia School of Law.

Executive Vice President and Provost Liz Magill ’95 announced the five-year reappointment to the UVA Law community Friday.

“The Law School owes many of its advances over the last four and half years to Risa’s leadership and vision,” Magill wrote. “Risa has attracted outstanding talent, significantly increased visibility for faculty scholarship, championed diversity and inclusion at the Law School, and received the largest gift in school history.  These are just a few highlights of her successful first term.”  

Goluboff oversaw one of the most prolific faculty recruiting runs in Law School history, hiring 20 professors since 2016 and 11 in the last year alone. She also helped lead an expansion of diversity within the student body while recruiting historically high levels of academic talent. This year’s incoming students, the Class of 2023, was the most diverse in the school’s history, with more than half of the student body made up of women for the first time and 33% self-identifying as people of color.

Goluboff expanded other diversity initiatives as well to strengthen the community’s inclusive environment, from driving efforts to honor the Law School’s first Black graduates and memorializing 100 years of coeducation to establishing scholarships and curricular programming to support students interested in addressing equity issues. After the Aug. 11-12, 2017, white supremacist march at the University and the Charlottesville protests, she led the UVA Deans Working Group that analyzed what went wrong and what changes the University should make moving forward.

The dean has also led a powerhouse fundraising effort. Under Goluboff, the school celebrated its first $50 million donors when Martha ’81 and Bruce Karsh ’80 recapitalized and renamed the Karsh-Dillard Scholarships, endowed a professorships fund, and established the Karsh Center for Law and Democracy. Their gift included University matching funds and kicked off the Honor the Future campaign, commemorating the bicentennial of the University and the Law School. During her time as dean, the Law School experienced two of its top three fundraising years in terms of dollars raised.

Goluboff also continued and enhanced the Law School’s longstanding commitment to an unparalleled student experience and remarkable career outcomes. The school set records in clerkships placement, in raw numbers and federal appellate positions. Always placing highly in national rankings, the Law School reached new heights in the 2020 Princeton Review, as the school captured the top spots for Best Professors, Best Classroom Experience and Best Quality of Life. The school was also No. 4 in Best Career Prospects, reflecting placement numbers boosted by robust hiring of UVA Law graduates at the largest law firms and in federal clerkships. The school has landed at No. 1 and No. 3 in the Above the Law school rankings, which focus on employment outcomes, in the past two years.

As private-sector and clerkship hiring has flourished, Goluboff has also strengthened the final component of the “three-legged stool,” as the school refers to its career development efforts: public service. To assist students pursuing public interest careers, she dedicated more funds for public service scholarships and fellowships and raised salary caps for the Virginia Loan Forgiveness Program, established the annual Shaping Justice conference and awards, and increased institutional and counseling support for the Program in Law and Public Service and the Mortimer Caplin Public Service Center.

The first UVA Law dean to join Twitter, Goluboff has led a flourishing of faculty on the platform, and also joined Instagram. She amplified visibility for faculty scholarship in other ways as well, establishing 11 new intellectual centers and programs focused on facilitating and promoting professors’ work in areas of excellence, and by co-hosting the “Common Law” podcast to highlight faculty ideas and research. Several faculty were hired to lead clinics and increase hands-on experiences for students, including a new director of clinical programs, Sarah Shalf ’01, who oversees the school’s 20 clinics. New clinics in the past four years include the Civil Rights Clinic, the Holistic Juvenile Defense Clinic, State and Local Government Policy Clinic, and the Federal Criminal Sentence Reduction Clinic.

Since March, Goluboff has led the school through its most rapid transformation yet — adapting to a hybrid curriculum during the COVID-19 pandemic. The effort required moving 139 classes online in the in the span of eight days last spring, and redesigning the curriculum in the fall to offer both in-person and online learning experiences. At least 70 percent of students took at least one in-person class and about half of classes were offered as hybrid courses.

“Everything the Law School has accomplished over the past several years is the product of a team effort by the entire Law School community,” Goluboff said. “My first term as dean has certainly seen its share of challenges, which we have been able to meet and overcome by working together.”

Goluboff noted that because of all the Law School has done for her since she joined the faculty as an untenured professor, “my goal has always been to help this wonderful institution thrive.”

“I am privileged to do my part, and I am grateful every day to work with faculty, staff, students and alumni who remind me of why what we do is worthwhile and who make it all possible. I appreciate the confidence the provost has placed in me for a second term, and I am more excited than ever about the next five years,” Goluboff said.

Goluboff said she looks forward to building on the best classroom experience in legal education and the “most august” faculty scholarship, continuing to make the school an even more welcoming and diverse place, and “preparing our students to become successful and public-spirited lawyers with knowledge, integrity, humanity and a passion for upholding the rule of law.”

Among Goluboff’s goals on the horizon are continuing to promote the health and safety of the UVA Law community during the pandemic, preparing students for an evolving profession through enhanced clinical and experiential education, deepening the faculty ranks and breadth of expertise, and hiring a new associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion.

Magill appointed a committee, chaired by UVA Law professors Paul B. Stephan ’77 and Ashley Deeks, to conduct the reappointment review. The committee interviewed and sought input from alumni, students, faculty and staff.

Professor Frederick Schauer praised the dean’s leadership through several notable challenges.

“During a period in which the COVID pandemic, the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville and the divisiveness of national politics, among many others, have created an extraordinarily difficult environment, the Law School has thrived academically, pedagogically, financially and reputationally, and Risa’s ability to steer the ship through especially difficult times is a testament to her diligence, energy and ability to appeal to so many diverse constituencies,” Schauer said.

Blair Wimbush ’80, chair of the Law School Foundation Board of Trustees, said Goluboff has enhanced and solidified UVA’s role as one of the nation’s best law schools as measured by student and faculty quality and by career outcomes. 

Additionally, she “has fostered a stronger, more inclusive environment by recognizing the diverse communities within the Law School and its alumni by acknowledging the roles of women and minorities — like Gregory Swanson and Elaine R. Jones — in creating this great school,” he said. 

He hailed her efforts “in response to the racist, anti-Semitic and fascist threat to the community early in her service as dean,” as well as her efforts to ensure that the Law School Foundation raises the funds today to “honor the future” needs of students, referring to the name of the capital campaign.

Pointing to Goluboff’s record on spearheading new centers and recruiting a range of faculty members, from junior stars to experienced leaders in their fields, Professor Deborah Hellman lauded the dean’s drive.

“The fact that the Law School has moved forward with such momentum during a deanship challenged by the events of August 11-12 here in Charlottesville and the worldwide pandemic is truly a testament to Risa’s energy and her ability to generate and nurture enthusiasm in others,” Hellman said.   

Goluboff is the 12th, and first female, dean of UVA Law. A renowned legal historian, she is the author of “Vagrant Nation: Police Power, Constitutional Change, and the Making of the 1960s,” and “The Lost Promise of Civil Rights,” both of which have won several awards. Goluboff has continued to teach and publish throughout her deanship. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2018 and the American Law Institute in 2017.

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

Media Contact

Mary M. Wood
Chief Communications Officer
wood@law.virginia.edu / (434) 924-3786

News Highlights