FACULTY PROFILE Michèle Alexandre

Meet the new dean

Michèle Alexandre will join the School of Law this summer

Michèle Alexandre will become the 14th dean of Loyola University Chicago School of Law on July 15, 2022. A Haitian-American, Alexandre was raised in Port-au-Prince and Brooklyn, N.Y.

Alexandre has served as dean of Stetson University College of Law since 2019, where she led efforts to expand the curriculum, increase alumni engagement, and establish new community partnerships. Under her leadership, Stetson raised more than $20 million for scholarships and capital projects, created a new business law concentration, and boasted the best pass rate for first-time takers of the Florida Bar exam since 2016. A first-generation lawyer, Alexandre has dedicated much of her career to issues of sustainability, race and gender equity, economic independence, and social justice for small farmers and poor populations. Her scholarship includes constitutional law, international law, civil rights law, disability law, critical race theory, human rights, and gender. School of Law Director of Communications Kristi Turnbaugh talked to the incoming dean about her leadership style, advice for students, and why she loves Chicago.

What made you want to become a lawyer?

I wanted to make a difference and to be of service. The Catholic mission mandates that we think of others. When you’re young and you hear that, it is a serious thing. A young person doesn’t dismiss that.

My dad would talk to me about social inequalities and the fact that human dignity was important. He nurtured my intellectual life. He always made sure that I knew I was smart and capable and that no one should ever be superior to me.

When I was in college [at Colgate University], I was really passionate about learning, and I had so many great teachers. The decision to either continue in education or go to professional school—that’s what I had to decide, and it was driven by how much impact I would have with a law degree. I had a passion for being in connection with people, and I knew that law was flexible.

Why did you want to become dean of Loyola University Chicago School of Law?

It’s an excellent law school with an excellent reputation. The mission really reflects what I believe. It’s very rare to have a law school that is not ambivalent about service. That’s special. I had many conversations with the community [during the interview process], and what struck me is that the questions that they asked were different everywhere I went; they were questions seeking to have a dialogue and a connection.

“I feel like everything I do is a form of teaching, sharing knowledge, and communing for common progress.”

How would you describe your leadership style?

Collaborative. I always take an approach of learning from people’s strengths and setting goals together. I’m a very straight shooter. I try to be as candid as possible and strive to be present. I want people to feel comfortable.

The work we do is important, and it takes everybody. Each person is vital. At Loyola law school, there are immense opportunities. The faculty, staff, and students are very talented. I’m amazed at the depth of talent.

You enjoy fundraising, a key part of the dean position. Can you talk a little bit about your approach?

I really enjoy connecting with people, and the more unlikely the connection, the better—because it’s like solving a riddle. We are here to have an experience, a human experience. We as people depend on one another to build things, to create new things, to get deeper with each other. We see that on the family level. We see that on a friendship level.

Fundraising is about connecting and finding commonality that helps us build something for our institutions. And it takes time. Just like you don’t build a friendship in one night, you have to invest in the human relationship. I like that. I love that opportunity.

What’s your best advice for students?

I tell my students to find a support system; I tell them that the first year on the first day. Law school is designed to be competitive, and it’s strict. My support group definitely helped me in law school, and that support group continues today. Those key people are still in my life.

I tell students to be proud and never shrink away from having a law degree or becoming future lawyers. It’s the best degree there is. Then, I apologize to my colleagues who have other degrees!

What can students expect from you when you come on board as dean?

I hope that students will consider the dean’s office an open door. Students are our priority.

I talk to my students about how flexible the law degree is, and I really do believe that it’s a pathway to opening all types of possibilities. A law degree has been good to me. My world opened, and allowed me to have a career where I could be the global citizen I envisioned. A career where I could have a greater impact. I’m proud of the fact that we are in an industry that can open this type of access.

What do you think about the city of Chicago?

It’s a beautiful city. The shopping is great, but I don’t usually shop—I’m too busy eating! I’m usually hunting when I’m in Chicago for where I can find the best vegan food. I’m a runner, and I ran the Chicago Marathon eons ago. I love the fact that Chicago is a walking city. And I can’t wait to get to know the communities. It’s a city of neighborhoods, so I look forward to very quickly being integrated into a multifaceted and diverse community. That’s exciting.

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