University Provost Philip Hanlon announced Wednesday afternoon the appointment of Mark West as the Law School’s 17th dean.
West’s assignment continues a longstanding tradition of appointing Law School deans from within the University. West is currently the associate dean for academic affairs at the Law School and the Nippon Life Professor of Law.
“Mark West brings to the deanship the valued strengths of brilliant scholarship and strong academic administration,” University President Mary Sue Coleman said in a statement. “His overall expertise and insight make Mark an exceptional choice to lead one of the nation’s premier legal education programs.”
West joined the Law School in 1998 as an assistant professor. Since, he has served as director of the U-M Center for Japanese Studies as well as director of the Law School’s Center for International and Comparative Law. His expertise is in criminal and Japanese law.
West earned his law degree from Columbia University School of Law, where he was an editor for the Columbia Law Review. During his time at Columbia, he focused on Japanese law in preparation for a career in academia, and has since written five books on Japanese culture and law.
West earned his bachelor’s degree from Rhodes College. He also studied and taught at the University of Tokyo and Kyoto University in Japan. He has also been honored as a Fulbright Scholar, an Abe Fellow and a fellow of the Japan Society for Promotion of Science.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily, West said he learned of his promotion only a short time before the official announcement early Wednesday afternoon.
“I’ve been here — with a few visits back and forth to Japan — my entire academic career,” West said. “I’m completely shaped by this place, and to be able to be a part of the continued shaping of it, is a real honor.”
West said the University has not only fostered his research, but has also shifted his career focus.
“This is a place that fosters all kinds of scholarship. I thought I was a law and economics person, but I’ve wound up reaching out to all sorts of different fields,” West said. “It’s a true interdisciplinary place that’s really shaped my work.”
West said he would like to use his time as dean to increase opportunities for the study of international law and to fundraise for scholarships and fellowships.
“You cannot be a first rate law school without engaging with the world,” West said. “Even the people who might think they are domestic (focused) also have very strong international interests and backgrounds in teaching.”
He acknowledged that law schools across the nation face declining numbers of applications overall, but said the first rate status of the University Law School — ranked 10th by U.S. News and World Report — buffered it somewhat from the economic doldrums.
“We already have a good loan repayment program, but I would like us to have a fantastic program,” West said. “I want students to be able to walk in the front door here and not think, ‘ah, now the rat race begins.’ I want them to think, ‘I’ve made it. I’m off the treadmill.’”
“The market is tight. There’s challenges. I don’t want to quote Coach (Brady) Hoke too much, but this is Michigan for God’s sake,” West said.
Evan Caminker, current dean of the Law School, will conclude his 10-year tenure on Aug. 31. During his deanship, Caminker expanded the Law School through the addition of the South Hall academic building, Aikens Commons and the Kirkland & Ellis Café. Renovations are ongoing in the Lawyer’s Club and in Hutchins Hall.
West praised Caminker’s leadership in building development during the economic recession. He added that the connections Caminker has made with alumni will be valuable in the future but graduates have a connection with the Law School itself, not a particular dean.
“Mark West will be an outstanding new dean for the Law School,” Caminker said in a statement. “I’m confident he has the leadership skills and vision necessary to maintain and enhance the school’s greatness and reputation in the years ahead.”
In an interview Wednesday with The Michigan Daily, Caminker praised West’s performance as associate dean and said he would have some familiarity with the top job once he assumes it later this year.
“I think that over a number of generations and a number of deans, the Law School has built a special culture,” Caminker said. “It is my fervent hope and expectation that Mark will maintain it and continue to enhance that reputation and reality.”
Caminker added that he looks forward to seeing what West can achieve in adding international opportunities for law students.
Law School Prof. Ellen Katz, who chaired the law dean search committee, said in a statement West’s experience and expertise made him a good candidate for the position of dean.
“I am delighted that Mark West will be the next dean of the Law School. He is a first-rate scholar, widely acclaimed for his creative, interdisciplinary and comparative scholarship, and an accomplished administrator with energy, enthusiasm and a comprehensive and far-reaching vision for the future of our school,” Katz said.
West’s son is a sophomore in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, and his daughter is an LSA freshman.
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said West’s salary as dean will be $425,000 per year. Caminker’s most recent salary was $470,000.
West will start his post Sept. 1, 2013, pending approval by the Board of the Regents. Their next meeting is Feb. 21.
—Daily News Editor Peter Shahin contributed to this report.