Leadership in times of crisis is hard work
UMRA’s final forum of 2021, on November 23, focused on the important topic of leadership in times of crisis—in particular, in the current time of racial reckoning. The speaker was Garry Jenkins, dean of the University of Minnesota Law School.
Dean Jenkins has been a leader in the response to the George Floyd murder. He has emphasized the need for not just a legal response but also for changes in the way people relate to each other. In June 2020, he and Laura Bloomberg, then dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, wrote a compelling piece on the issues for MinnPost.
One of Jenkins’s primary interests in both scholarship and practice is the subject of leadership. His presentation for UMRA focused on five leadership lessons, particularly as applied to racial reckoning.
First, in times of crisis, lean in, not out. Second, focus on helping your players—students, staff, faculty, administrators, alumni, even outsiders—feel that they belong in the community doing the work. “Belonging is deeper than being included,” he said.
Third, prepare for backlash when you do, in fact, lean in on controversial issues. Fourth, broadly look for help. Fifth, recognize both the urgency created by the crisis, but also combine that sense of urgency with a long-term plan.
In elaborating on these lessons, Jenkins noted that in facing topics such as racial reckoning, people often want easy technocratic solutions, but those do not solve the underlying problems of racial violence. So, an organization such as the Law School has to do the hard work of looking around and actually seeing barriers that are standing in the way of progress. And, instead of distancing itself from events, the organization has to move towards them in both big and small ways—to research, to listen, to understand, to collaborate, to engage, to do what the institution does well.
To that end, to cite one example, the Law School has created its “Civic Scholars Initiative” to give students and other constituents a vehicle for collaborating with community partners. The Law School has also created a Racial Equity & Justice Committee to provide faculty and students yet another means of pursuing racial justice work. And with a lead gift from two recent alumni, the Law School has established the George Floyd Memorial Scholarship in Law to help diverse students to receive a legal education.
In the collaborative effort, Jenkins emphasized, everyone must feel they belong. Your people—including your students in an educational setting—need to feel they are seen, that they are valued for what each of them can bring to the table, that they are co-creators of solutions. And then they need to reach out beyond the organization to work with legislators, administrative agencies, state officials, other educational institutions, and the broader community to make lasting change.
The Law School is undertaking many steps to follow these five leadership lessons and is proud as the state’s public law school to be in the vanguard of the effort to lean into a time of racial reckoning.
Jenkins arrived at the U in 2016 as the school’s 11th dean and the William S. Pattee Professor of Law. Immediately before coming to the Law School, he was associate dean for academic affairs and the holder of a named professorship at the Moritz College of Law at the Ohio State University.
In addition to his academic positions, Jenkins has practiced law, at the Simpson Thacher firm in New York City, and has served as the chief operating officer, general counsel, and corporate secretary at the Goldman Sachs Foundation.
Under Jenkins leadership, the U of M Law School has increased its student diversity by 75 percent and increased its black student enrollment by 600 percent. Its overall student population has grown, and this year the school welcomed the second most credentialed class in the school’s history.
— Bradley G. Clary, emeritus clinical professor of law and UMRA member
Five lessons in leading in a post-George Floyd world
Tue, November 23 2021, 12pm
Garry Jenkins, JD
Dean and William S. Pattee Professor of Law
University of Minnesota Law School
Event to be held via Zoom.
UMRA is pleased to welcome Garry Jenkins, JD, dean and William S. Pattee Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota Law School, to our UMRA Forum at 12 noon on Tuesday, November 23, to speak about the challenges and future of legal education. Dean Jenkins’ teaching and research interests are in the fields of law and philanthropy, corporate governance, leadership studies, and civil rights.
Prior to becoming the Law School’s 11th dean in 2016, Jenkins was associate dean for academic affairs and John C. Elam/Vorys Sater Professor Law at the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. He also practiced law at Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett in New York, and was chief operating officer, general counsel, and corporate secretary of the Goldman Sachs Foundation.
Please register for this Zoom webinar on Tuesday, November 23, at 12 noon.
Jenkins earned a BA from Haverford College, an MPP from the Harvard University Kennedy School, and a JD from Harvard Law School, where he served as editor-in-chief of the Harvard Civil Rights–Civil Liberties Law Review. Upon completion of his law degree, he clerked for Judge Timothy K. Lewis of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
Held in high esteem
Dean Jenkins currently serves on numerous nonprofit boards and committees, including the Law School Admission Council, Haverford College, the Guthrie Theatre, and Equal Justice Works, an organization that develops and facilitates opportunities for law students and lawyers in public interest law and policy.
Having taught at the University of Minnesota Law School until my retirement from the faculty this past summer, I can personally attest to the high esteem in which Dean Jenkins is held by the Law School community. We are particularly grateful for his leadership in guiding the Law School through the many obstacles posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and in fashioning the Law School’s heightened commitment to racial equity in response to the killing of George Floyd.
Please register for this Zoom webinar and join us at 12 noon on Tuesday, November 23.
— Stephen Befort, JD, emeritus professor of law and UMRA member
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