FACULTY PROFILE Michèle Alexandre
Meet the dean
Michèle Alexandre takes the helm of the School of Law
On July 15, Michèle Alexandre became the 14th dean of Loyola University Chicago School of Law. Alexandre is Haitian American. She was raised in Port-au-Prince and Brooklyn, New York.
From 2019 through June 2022, Alexandre served as dean of Stetson University College of Law, 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 Dean Alexandre about her leadership style, her 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; community members at Loyola Law were 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 for 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. (Summer 2022)
Michèle Alexandre: At a Glance
Michèle Alexandre, the 14th dean of Loyola University Chicago School of Law, brings two decades of higher education experience and a professional background that includes serving as a civil rights attorney. A few facts:
- Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and moved to the U.S. in 1990.
- Earned a BA from Colgate University and a JD from Harvard Law School.
- Has devoted her career and scholarship to civil rights law, including issues of sustainability, economic independence, gender and racial equity, and social justice.
- Known for expertise in critical race theory, human rights, international law, and constitutional law.
- Served as dean at Stetson University College of Law for three years. There she created new scholarships—some especially for students of color and LGBT students—and led creation of a new business law concentration and planning to establish a new law clinic that focuses on intersecting issues of climate change and democracy. Among other development successes, Alexandre secured a $10 million gift, the largest in Stetson Law’s history, and fundraised for the construction of Stetson Law’s new Advocacy Institute, the construction of which kicked off in spring 2022.
- Previously held roles at the University of Mississippi School of Law, the American College of Law, the University of Baltimore School of Law, and the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, among others.
- Authored the civil rights textbook The New Frontiers of Civil Rights Litigation (Carolina Academic Press, 2019) and Sexploitation: Sexual Profiling and the Illusion of Gender (Routledge, 2014).
- Litigated discrimination cases in Selma, Alabama, including both iterations of the historic Black Farmers class action litigation.
- Named one of Ebony Magazine's Top 100 influential African Americans of 2013 and one of the 50 “Most Influential Minority Law Professors 50 Years of Age or Younger” by Lawyers of Color magazine.