Michael J. Kaufman
Medal of Excellence
The Medal of Excellence honors a member of the School of Law community who exhibits the qualities of character, intellect, and social and professional responsibility that the School of Law fosters.
“Any time you choose just one approach to learning, you’re going to miss reaching the majority of students,” says Michael J. Kaufman, former School of Law professor and dean, explaining why he is so proud of his colleagues who, even in the midst of remote learning in the pandemic, have incorporated more active, participatory learning approaches including team projects, collaborative exercises, experiential learning, and immersion courses.
In this new, more effective learning environment, relationships are still the key. “We know from neuroscience and educational psychology research that people learn in the context of relationships—at the law school, that means peers, faculty members, administration, staff, and alumni,” Kaufman says. “The learning culture is critical, and Loyola is a community in which people are encouraged to develop meaningful relationships from which knowledge, values, and skills are constructed.”
Understanding and responding to the diverse ways people learn has been at the heart of Kaufman’s wide-ranging professional pursuits. He led a large board of education in the Chicago area and is a highly respected scholar in the area of pedagogy at all levels of education, including early childhood. Kaufman’s casebook, Education Law, Policy, and Practice (Aspen, 5th ed. 2021) is a leading text in both law school and graduate school classes.
During his years at Loyola, Kaufman put his research into practice, founding the Education Law and Policy Institute, which conducts conferences, academic programs, direct representation, and advocacy to enhance educational access and equity. Kaufman helped to create the innovative Weekend JD program and to expand the school’s Master of Jurisprudence programs for nonlawyers. Recognizing the centrality of interpersonal skills to professional success, ethical conduct, and the act of learning itself, he ensured that students learn engaged listening, interviewing, and counseling.
As dean, Kaufman garnered many other notable accomplishments: He led the law school in instituting concrete actions to expand equity and seek racial justice; increased the diversity and academic credentials of incoming students; improved bar passage and employment outcomes for graduates; served as the head of the University’s strategic planning team; strengthened alumni outreach; and continued to publish his research in other areas of interest: securities regulation and litigation, civil procedure, and jurisprudence.
Through it all, he continued to teach, considering his one-on-one connections with students invaluable and his time in the classroom “the best part of my week.”
“The law school has excelled and thrived under Dean Kaufman’s dedicated and passionate leadership,” says Freddi Greenberg (JD ’75), president of the Law Alumni Board of Governors. “His warmth, respect, and generosity to the law school community, and beyond, exemplifies the qualities that the law school hopes to develop in its students.”
“I am moved to tears and overwhelmed with gratitude,” Kaufman says of being selected to receive the Medal of Excellence. “To be included among my true heroes who have received this honor in the past brings me tremendous joy, humility, and fulfillment. I will be forever grateful for the love and support of my dear Loyola friends.”
On July 1, Kaufman became dean of Santa Clara University School of Law. See "A legacy of empathy and excellence.”