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Stacy Leeds named next dean of ASU Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Leeds will be the first Indigenous dean at the University and the second female dean of the law school

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Stacy Leeds, the new dean of the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law poses on Monday, Nov. 21, 2022, in Phoenix.

Stacy Leeds has been appointed the new dean of ASU's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law and will be the first Indigenous dean at ASU and the second woman to be the dean of the law school.   

The search for a new dean began in July 2021 when Douglas Sylvester stepped down after serving as the dean of the law school for a decade. Leeds will begin her position on Feb. 1.

In January 2021, Leeds came to the University to primarily teach Indigenous law. Currently, she is a Foundation Professor of Law and Leadership within the Indian Legal Program, which initially drew Leeds to ASU. 

Leeds is originally from Oklahoma and still holds strong ties there as she is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. In addition to her own tribe, she has worked with other tribes across the country. Her involvement has mostly been in a "tribal judge capacity, but it also has been in the realm of economic development and business entities," Leeds said.

While spending the last decade working at the University of Arkansas, Leeds served as the first Indigenous woman in the United States to become the dean of a law school. After seven years as the dean, she served as the vice chancellor for economic development at the University of Arkansas.

 "It's important for all of our law students to be relatable to their leaders and see in the leaders across different segments of our society," Leeds said. To see "people who look like them and who have experienced the things that they have experienced." 

Viewing the role as an honor, Leeds said she will continue to hold herself and the school to high standards and has many expectations for the future of the law school.

Leeds accepted the position due to an overwhelming feeling of potential for the law school. 

The school is in a "phenomenally great place right now" and continues to garner national attention, which impacts not only the students at the school but society and other institutions, Leeds said.

Leeds intends to expand the school's ability to deliver a flexible, legal education to its students. The questions are focused on more online courses or experiences out in the field to ensure the school is filling its flexibility component.

For the future, Leeds wants the law school "to play a more prominent role in reimagining legal education nationally."

"She is a warm and thoughtful human being," said Charles Calleros, a professor at the law school and an Alan A. Matheson Fellow in Law.

Calleros describes Leeds as a trailblazer. 

"She is our first Indigenous dean. I had the honor as associate dean last year to review the activities reports of all our faculty, and hers just blew me away," Calleros said. "It is amazing what she somehow fits into a year."

Leeds' list of activities ranges from publishing numerous books and articles within a year, being a judge for several tribes to serving on multiple boards. 

"This is somebody who is extraordinary in her productivity," Calleros said.

Calleros said Leeds is a person who can recognize helping the student body achieve health and well-being while they study hard and grow intellectually.

"Stacy is one of those people who can work with anyone; she has a really great way about her, very personable," said Kathlene Rosier, executive director of the Indian Legal Program.

Being at the forefront of important issues across Indian Country and formerly a dean at another institution brings Leeds "a wealth of experience that is going to really benefit ASU law," Rosier said. "She is very well respected nationally."

Rosier said Leeds is a great listener who will meet the student's wants and needs and assist them in solving problems. Leeds' extensive network that she has acquired over the years will also benefit current law students.

"I feel very fortunate that she is going to be our next dean, and I am excited to watch what she does first," Rosier said.

Edited by Jasmine Kabiri, Wyatt Myskow and Grace Copperthite.

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Claire Le GalloCommunity Reporter

Claire Le Gallo is a reporter for the Community and Culture desk at The State Press. She is a sophomore majoring in Journalism and Anthropology.

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