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FACULTY PROFILE Zelda Harris

Meet the interim dean

Zelda B. Harris is interim dean of Loyola University Chicago School of Law. She also serves as director of the Dan K. Webb Center for Advocacy, whose trial advocacy program is nationally ranked, and student teams regularly win regional, national, and international competitions. Harris served as associate dean of academic affairs for three and half years. She has more than 20 years of experience as a litigator and advocate on behalf of victims of family and intimate partner violence. Here, Dean Harris discusses the law school’s anti-racist mission, her proudest accomplishment, and why there’s never been a better time to attend law school.

On the School of Law’s anti-racist mission: We recently updated our School of Law mission to more accurately reflect our efforts to address the current and enduring challenges of systemic racism in our country. Specifically, we agreed to educate students to be responsible and compassionate lawyers, judges, and law-related leaders in an increasingly diverse and interdependent world; to prepare graduates who will be ethical advocates for justice and equity, who will lead efforts to dismantle the legal, economic, political, and social structures that generate and sustain racism and all forms of oppression, and who will advance a rule of law that promotes social justice; and to contribute to a deeper understanding of law, legal institutions, and systems of oppression through a commitment to transformation, intersectionality, and anti-subordination in our teaching, research, scholarship, and public service.

On how the School of Law nurtures a diverse, inclusive, and welcoming community: The School of Law collaborates as a community to ensure we provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students. We’re continually evaluating the culture and climate to eliminate racism and bias, and we’ve established a new core curriculum to address the professional and moral obligation of lawyers and law students. In addition, we are updating established protocol for addressing incidents of harm in our community. We are well situated in Chicago to promote and sponsor programs and dialogue on current issues involving injustice that intersect our many areas of expertise.


“The School of Law collaborates as a community to ensure we provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students.”


On her most memorable achievement at Loyola: In 2018, as a result of student advocacy, I worked in collaboration with faculty, students, alumni, and administration to create the Professional Identity Formation (PIF) course. The PIF course seeks to advance the mission of the law school by fulfilling two of the main educational goals at Loyola Law: advancing the Jesuit tradition of social justice and ethics and law, and to prepare students to be accomplished and ethical leaders in the legal profession and the larger community. The required first-year law course seeks to assist students in the recognition and elimination of personal bias and building awareness of how diversity and inclusion of others whose world view is different from one’s own is critical to professional development and success in the practice of law.

On what most excites her about this school year: We have a highly credentialed, diverse, entering 1L class. I’m pleased to report that we’re able to support ninety-five percent of incoming students with scholarship funds or other forms of institutional aid, which allows students to make their dreams a reality. I’m also thrilled that we’ll recruit and hire new scholars who are engaged in teaching and scholarship that address anti-racism, racial justice, health equity, and structural disparities impacting Black, Latinx, indigenous, and other persons of color. These new colleagues will add to the exceptional teaching, scholarship, and service of our Loyola Law faculty, and will help us better deliver on our mission for students.

Words of wisdom for students considering law school: There is no better time in modern history to attend law school than now. We are at the precipice of historical change in this country and around the world. Lawyers are in a unique position to set the pace for change through advocacy, problem solving, and civil public engagement and discourse. The challenges are great for future lawyers to guide our country forward using the rule of law to denounce racism and bias, to promote universal fairness among our many different constituencies, and to advance the benefits of inclusivity.


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