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‘Poised to shine’: Johanna Kalb hired as University of Idaho College of Law’s new dean

Johanna Kalb will be the new dean for the University of Idaho College of Law.  (Courtesy of the University of Idaho)
Johanna Kalb will be the new dean for the University of Idaho College of Law. (Courtesy of the University of Idaho)

Within the past two years, the University of Idaho has installed a new president and a new provost.

Now, the institution has a new dean for the university’s College of Law.

Johanna Kalb cited the relatively new leadership among the reasons she’s excited to start in May.

She is a professor and the associate dean of administration and special initiatives at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law.

Kalb will replace Jerrold Long, who will return to his faculty position after a three-year term.

“It feels like a place where the values really line up with my personal values, and it’s a moment when I think the university is really poised to shine,” Kalb said. “It’s always exciting to come to an institution that’s about to take off.”

With her hire, Kalb will become the first woman to serve as dean in the College of Law’s 112-year history.

To date, 76 of the 176 member institutions of the Association of American Law Schools have female deans. This includes two schools that each have one female co-dean, according to the association. The University of Idaho College of Law is a member institution.

Kalb said she believes she’s the right person for the job. That she’s also “a first,” she added, is serendipitous.

“I think for me, the dean’s job is the dean’s job,” Kalb said, “but for the people around me, it’s really important to be able to see people in positions of leadership who are like you. I hope that it will be an inspiration for some of the students at the College of Law to think about the different possible career paths that are available to them in academia and administration and beyond.

“But in terms of being a dean, I plan to be a dean – not a female dean. The skills that I bring to it, I think, are pretty much the same across the board, with maybe more of an eye toward thinking about what my presence in the dean’s suite will say to our students and our prospective students about what kind of community we are.”

Kalb’s education includes a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University, a master’s in international relations (with a focus on African studies) from Johns Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor from Yale University.

Kalb said she was particularly interested in Sub-Saharan Africa and the processes involved with establishing new democracies.

Since starting at Loyola in 2008, Kalb has taught classes on constitutional law, the First Amendment, human rights, the law of democracy and legal writing and research, she said. After attending Johns Hopkins and Yale, Kalb moved to Mississippi, where she met her husband and clerked for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Kalb later landed the teaching position at Loyola, though she took a couple of years’ leave to return to Yale as a visiting professor and director of the university’s Arthur Liman Center for Public Interest Law. Her experience also includes work with the Brennan Center for Justice on campaign finance law and court systems, she said.

“Professor Kalb’s background and expertise will benefit the College of Law as we continue to grow our two locations, Moscow and Boise, and train the high-quality professionals the university is known for,” Torrey Lawrence, provost and executive vice president, said in a statement.

New Orleans has been home for Kalb, who said she has family primarily in the northeastern United States. She said her two children are excited by the move – though perhaps a bit nervous about the cold weather.

Regarding Idaho, Kalb said she is encouraged by the outlook for the university and the state, commending Gov. Brad Little’s proposal to use the state’s budget surplus partly for educational investments.

Meanwhile, Kalb said one of the university’s biggest draws was an emphasis on a more affordable legal education, citing the institution’s participation in the Western Regional Graduate Program. The program allows out-of-state students to enroll in the university’s master’s, graduate and doctoral programs while paying resident tuition rates.

“As the concerns about student debt grow, one of my interests is really figuring out how we make a legal education accessible,” Kalb said. “Accessible, particularly, to people coming from smaller communities, more rural communities and people who are the first people in their family to go to college or graduate school.”

Kalb said she plans to work with her university and College of Law colleagues to solidify her priorities and goals once she gets started. She similarly hopes to meet with tribal representatives, universities, businesses and legal communities statewide.

That said, the incoming dean does have plans in mind to explore growth opportunities for the Boise and Moscow campuses.

There are 460 students enrolled in the College of Law, according to the university. In Boise, Kalb said she anticipates the college will look at increasing class sizes to meet the increases in the number of applicants. That’s compounded by a need for more space, she added, as the college is “bursting at the seams in our current building.”

In Moscow, meanwhile, Kalb said she plans to work across campus to re-evaluate and grow the college’s concurrent degree programs, as more students are seeking interdisciplinary training at the University of Idaho.

“I just think it’s an incredibly important institution for the state and for the region,” Kalb said. “I’m really deeply honored to have been selected to lead such an important institution at such a pivotal time.”

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