Jon Campisi Feb. 6, 2014, 5:13pm


The dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s Law School is heading down

south after he was tapped to lead a Louisiana institution of higher learning.

Michael A. Fitts, who has been the dean of, and a professor of law at, the University of Pennsylvania Law School, will begin his term as president of Tulane University in New Orleans on July 1.

Fitts, who is considered an expert in administrative law, came to Penn Law as a professor in 1985 and was named dean in 2000.

During his tenure, Fitts transformed the school’s curriculum “promoting an interdisciplinary approach to legal education while encouraging a collaborative environment central to the School’s pedagogical mission,” the school stated on its website.

While at Penn Law, Fitts grew the size of the standing faculty by 40 percent, while quadrupling the number if cross-cutting academic institutes, the school stated.

Fitts also oversaw the creation and expansion of innovative programs designed to attract top student talent, which doubled the availability of student financial assistance, thereby leading to a 78 percent increase in admissions applications, according to the university.

“Mike Fitts is an inspired choice to become the next president of Tulane University,” Penn President Amy Gutmann said in a statement. “He is a skilled and strategic leader, whose vision has propelled Penn Law to even greater heights among the pre-eminent law schools in our nation.”

Under Fitts’ direction, Gutmann said, the law school has become an “unrivaled leader in cross-disciplinary legal education, which is an essential feature of first-rate education in today’s increasingly complex global society.”

Fitts, who lead the physical transformation of the law school, which culminated in the $33.5 million, 40,000-square-foot Golkin Hall project, said that it has been an honor and privilege to have spent his entire academic career working at Penn Law.

“Working with the talented students, faculty and staff at Penn has truly been a joy,” he said in a statement. “Together we’ve achieved so much that has enriched the intellectual climate at the Law School and the University more broadly. These relationships will last a lifetime.”

Fitts, who grew up in Philadelphia, earned degrees from Harvard University and Yale Law.

He began teaching at the University of Pennsylvania in 1985 after serving as a clerk for prominent civil rights advocate Judge Leon Higginbotham and as an attorney in the United States Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

Fitts has written extensively on administrative law, presidential power, separation of governmental powers, improving the structure of political parties and executive branch decision-making, according to Tulane University, which announced Fitts’ hiring on its website.

In a statement provided by Tulane, Fitts said he is excited about relocating to what he calls one of the world’s most “dynamic” cities, and working at a university that “embodies a rich tradition of leadership and innovation in higher education.”

“As a preeminent academic and research institution with a deep commitment to public service, Tulane is making a distinctive difference in the world,” Fitts said. “Our potential is unlimited.”

Tulane Board President Darryl Berger called Fitts an “individual who is uniquely qualified to guide, inspire and lead” the New Orleans university, and Rick Rees, the co-chair of the search committee, said that Fitts is “extremely smart but unbelievably humble.”

While at Penn Law, Fitts helped secure a multi-million dollar increase in funding for students working in public interest and government positions, according to the school.

He also helped expand the Toll Public Interest Scholars and Public Interest Fellows programs, as well as expanded Penn Law’s loan forgiveness program, enabling graduates to pursue careers in service unencumbered by mounting debt.

Fitts also oversaw the introduction of the Center on Professionalism, which is a program designed to educate students in various executive skills sought by top employers in an ever-changing marketplace.

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