University News

Zelda B. Harris Joins the Community as the New Dean of the School of Law

Published: August 01, 2023 | Categories: Law, All News, Faculty
Zelda B. Harris, incoming Dean of Western New England University School of Law

Western New England University (WNE) is pleased to welcome Zelda B. Harris as the new Dean of the School of Law.

Dr. Maria Toyoda, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at Western New England University, cited Harris' extensive experience, leadership skills, dedication to a student-centered legal education, and lengthy history of social justice advocacy as reasons for her appointment.

"Zelda's experience in academic leadership, clinical legal education, and advocacy, along with her commitment to social justice and anti-racism, make her an ideal fit for Western New England University," said Toyoda. "We are thrilled to welcome her to our community and look forward to her leadership as the new Dean of the Western New England University School of Law."

For more than a decade, Harris has been responsible for overseeing all aspects of the Loyola University Chicago Law School's Center for Advocacy, including curriculum development for both the J.D. certificate and L.L.M. degree programs in advocacy. Under her leadership, the School of Law's trial advocacy program became nationally ranked.

"I was immediately drawn to the mission and values espoused by Western New England School of Law students, faculty, staff, and administration," said Harris. "I am so excited to be provided this opportunity to lead WNE Law, a school with a dedicated student-focused education with an experiential focus in education, training, and development that ensures students graduate with a full understanding of how the law can be used to address systemic inequities. I have felt incredible warmth and welcome at every stage of getting to know WNE Law."

In the 2021 academic year, Harris served as interim dean of Loyola's School of Law, responsible for the implementation of the law school's revised mission statement that prioritizes the need to dismantle the legal, economic, political, and social structures that generate and sustain racism and all forms of oppression. Her efforts yielded the highest percentage of diverse students in an entering class (fall 2021), and the hiring of nationally renowned faculty that focus their scholarship on the new mission.

Prior to joining Loyola University Chicago School of Law, Harris served as a Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Domestic Violence Law Clinic, a multi-disciplinary clinical program, at the University of Arizona's James E. Rogers College of Law. She also co-directed the Child and Family Law Clinic. Prior to her time at Arizona, Harris was a Staff Attorney in the Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern University School of Law. Harris began her practice as an attorney at Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation in Alton, Illinois.

"After a national search, we are thrilled to welcome Zelda to the Golden Bear Community," said WNE President Dr. Robert E. Johnson. "Her extensive experience as the Director of the Dan K. Webb Center for Advocacy is a testament to her leadership skills and dedication to a student-centered legal education and her appointment marks an important milestone for the University as it seeks to further its commitment to social justice and anti-racism."

Harris began her role at WNE on August 1, 2023.