Dean to step down at UA's law school

University of Arkansas students are shown on the lawn in front of Old Main on the campus in Fayetteville in this file photo.
University of Arkansas students are shown on the lawn in front of Old Main on the campus in Fayetteville in this file photo.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Margaret Sova McCabe will step down as dean of the University of Arkansas School of Law at the end of June, the university announced Tuesday.

Hired in 2018, Sova McCabe has championed various service initiatives for the law school's students while overseeing an uptick in enrollment. She will continue at UA as a professor of law after leaving the dean position, the university announced.

"The timing of this news ensures that the provost will have adequate time to consult with the faculty regarding the leadership transition so that we can remain institutionally strong," Sova McCabe said in a statement. "Despite changing roles at the end of the academic year, my enthusiastic support of our university and the law school community will not waver."

Sova McCabe, 51, gave no reason for stepping down, but in her statement said she is "excited to re-engage" with her teaching and research interests as well as various collaborations.

In a text message to the Democrat-Gazette, she did not directly answer why she is leaving the dean position but referred to data on the average length of time spent as a law dean.

An online resource known as Rosenblatt's Deans Database lists the average tenure of currently serving deans as 4.04 years and the average tenure of past law deanships as 5.06 years. By June 30, Sova McCabe will have served four years as UA's law dean.

"I'm proud of my service -- particularly through the pandemic -- and as the announcement says return to teaching, research and service," she said in the text message.

She came to UA from the University of New Hampshire School of Law, where she was a faculty member and an associate dean. Her research has included examining legal and regulatory topics related to food, including sustainable food systems.

Under her leadership, the University of Arkansas School of Law in 2019 launched a summer public fellowship program.

The initiative provides law students with paid opportunities in public interest and public service law, with the students helping out nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations or governmental entities that otherwise couldn't pay for summer help, according to the law school's website.

"She developed the program, and she has ensured that there's support for the program," said Annie Smith, an associate professor of law and faculty director of the law school's public service and pro bono program.

Smith said the law school under Sova McCabe's leadership also created a Pro Bono Fellow program for third-year law students. The university has described the initiative as providing a stipend to "exemplary" students interested in providing legal services for free or at reduced fees to help the public.

The UA law school enrolled 388 students this past fall, up from 368 students who enrolled in fall 2018, according to university data.

Interim Provost Terry Martin said in a statement he is "very thankful" that Sova McCabe will remain a member of the law faculty. The university expects to name an interim dean for the 2022-23 academic year, according to Tuesday's announcement, and Martin will name a search committee to find the next dean.

Sova McCabe earns $300,237 as law dean and -- upon stepping down and moving to a nine-month faculty position -- would earn a salary of $221,140 based on her current pay rate, UA spokesman Mark Rushing said.

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