Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

Sturm College of Law raising the bar on diversity

The University of Denver Sturm College of Law, with a new dean and a newly developed strategic plan, is taking on yet another new goal in 2010: diversity.

Dean Martin Katz announced in March the appointment of Catherine Smith to the post of associate dean of institutional diversity and inclusiveness.

In her new role, Smith says she’ll focus on broadening DU’s commitment to diversity, recruiting a broad range of faculty and students and reaching into traditionally underserved segments of the community.

Katz says he believes she can excel in the new position, which is believed to be one of the first such tenure-track posts at an American law school.

“Catherine is one of the most energetic and innovative people I have met,” Katz says. “She is dedicated to inclusiveness in the truest sense. She works tirelessly in pursuit of this goal. She is a unifier, always focusing on the possible and on the positive.”

A graduate of the University of South Carolina School of Law, Smith was an assistant professor at the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University from 2000–04 before coming to DU. She teaches torts and employment discrimination, and her research interests include civil rights law and critical race theory

In addition to her teaching duties, Smith says she expects to spend the next few months learning what other industries and schools have done and reaching out to the community.

“We already are doing a lot of good things right here in the building,” she says. “But we would like to pull all of that together and see where we’re going and where we can do more. Really, I’m going to listen a lot.”

Smith says she also envisions building stronger ties to associations and organizations that serve minority communities and reach into socio-economically disadvantaged populations. The goal, she says, is to have a law school and a community of lawyers that better reflect Colorado’s diversity. Diversity, she says, brings in new ideas and ways of looking at legal challenges and fosters opportunities for a traditionally disadvantaged population that has much to contribute.

“Catherine has a seemingly endless supply of good ideas,” Katz says “Having someone focused on these projects for the long haul is particularly important to their success. I am excited to work with her on these projects. Given the Sturm College of Law’s commitment to diversity and inclusiveness, it is particularly appropriate for us to do this here. We have the opportunity to be a national leader in this area.”

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