Cynthia Nance now dean of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville School of Law

Cynthia Nance is shown at Champions of Literacy in this June 8, 2022 file photo. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Carin Schoppmeyer)
Cynthia Nance is shown at Champions of Literacy in this June 8, 2022 file photo. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Carin Schoppmeyer)

Cynthia Nance, who has been serving as interim dean of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville School of Law since last summer, will continue to lead the law school through June 2026, the university announced Thursday.

Nance, who was also dean of the law school from 2006-2011, has served the university for nearly three decades, "and her experience within the School of Law and the university, as well as her expertise in legal education and respect of the bench and bar, is unmatched," Terry Martin, provost and executive vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, said in a news release from the university Thursday. "I, along with university leadership, am thrilled she will continue in this role."

Nance first joined the law school in 1994 as an assistant professor, and she was the first woman and first person of color to serve as dean of the law school -- which was established in 1924 -- when she took the job in 2006, according to the university.

Following her five years as dean, she returned to the faculty -- designated as the Nathan G. Gordon Professor of Law in 2012 -- and in July of 2022, she was appointed interim dean, succeeding Alena Allen, who herself was serving in an interim capacity before stepping down after roughly six months in the role.

Since Nance's first tenure as dean, the law school has continuously been led by women.

"It is an honor to continue to serve the university and School of Law community in this capacity, especially as we look forward to celebrating the centennial of the law school" next year, Nance said in the news release. "I'm grateful to Provost Martin for his confidence in my leadership and for allowing me to continue to advance our legacy of leadership, research and service, consistent with our land grant mission, which also includes access to legal education for historically underrepresented groups."

The law school has roughly 6,500 living alumni, representing all 50 states and more than two dozen countries, according to Nance. More than 100 students graduated from the law school in May, and they devoted nearly 1,800 hours of pro bono service to the community.

The law school "is a Best Value law school, and we want to continue that for access to the profession," Nance explained previously. The law is "a noble profession," and attorneys speak on behalf of others, protect and defend their rights and preserve the rule of law "for all of us."

Nance, 65, whose appointment officially starts Jan. 1, 2024, will maintain her faculty tenure, rank and role as the Nathan G. Gordon Professor of Law, with total annual compensation of $357,000, which includes a 12-month academic base salary of $289,176 and a $67,824 administrative stipend, according to her re-appointment letter. The administrative stipend will end with the conclusion of her tenure as dean, but she will be appointed to a six-month research appointment.

The university will provide $36,000 per year for three years to support the School of Law Clinical Psychology Training Program, according to the re-appointment letter. That funding will be re-evaluated after three years.

Nance's pay increased to $300,237 as interim law dean, up from her previous salary of $211,851, which was for a nine-month appointment. At the end of her tenure as dean and six-month research appointment, her 12-month salary will revert back to a nine-month salary.

Beginning in late October, four candidates -- Elizabeth Weeks, Michael Higdon, Johanna Kalb and Ned Snow -- visited Fayetteville to hold open forums, deliver presentations and answer questions, but Martin ultimately opted for an internal solution in Nance.

While the search, which was chaired by Dean of the College of Education and Health Professions Kate Mamiseishvili, "identified many highly qualified candidates, we decided that Dean Nance is the best person to lead the School of Law forward," Martin said in the release. She's "highly accomplished and well respected by legal professionals across the country. She is truly a pioneer in her field, and her contributions to the U of A, the legal community, the state and the nation are remarkable."

Weeks, who has a bachelor's degree in Latin American studies and political science from Columbia University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Georgia School of Law, is associate provost for faculty affairs at the University of Georgia, where she holds the rank of professor and is the Charles H. Kirbo Chair in Law, according to Lyndsay Bradshaw, University Relations assistant director of executive communications. Her teaching and research focuses on torts, health law, healthcare financing and regulation and public health law.

Higdon, who has a bachelor's degree in English from Erskine College, a master's degree in communication studies from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and a Juris Doctor from UNLV's William S. Boyd School of Law, is interim associate dean for academic affairs and the W. Allen Separk Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Tennessee College of Law, according to Bradshaw. He teaches and writes in the areas of constitutional law, legal process, wills and trusts and family law.

Kalb, who has a bachelor's degree from Stanford University, a master's degree in international relations (African studies) from Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and a Juris Doctor from Yale Law School, is dean and professor of law at the University of Idaho College of Law, according to Bradshaw. Her research and teaching interests include constitutional law, federal courts and the law of detention and democracy.

Snow, associate dean for faculty development and scholarship at the University of South Carolina School of Law, where he holds the Ray Taylor Fair Professorship in Law, has a bachelor's degree in philosophy and economics from Brigham Young University and a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School, according to Bradshaw. His research focuses on the intersection of morality, intellectual property and the Constitution.

Nance has a bachelor's degree in economics from Chicago State University, a Juris Doctor with distinction from the University of Iowa College of Law and a master's in finance from the University of Iowa College of Business, according to the university. Her teaching and scholarship focus on labor and employment law, workplace legislation and poverty law, and she was the law school's first director of pro bono and community engagement.

She has given presentations on various legal and educational issues across the country, as well as in Mexico, Brunei, Singapore and Ukraine, according to the university. She is actively involved with several organizations that address labor and employment law.

Nance is also an Arkansas PBS commissioner and a member of the Arkansas Bar Foundation Trust Committee, according to the university. She has received various awards for her outstanding service, including the 2023 W. Harold Flowers Law Society Carrying on the Legacy Award, 2023 Association of American Law Schools Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2017 Arkansas Bar Association Presidential Award of Excellence and the university's 2004 Faculty Distinguished Achievement Award in Public Service.

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