The UC Davis School of Law will make history this summer when Kevin Johnson becomes the new dean and the first Latino to head a law school in the University of California system.
Johnson, current associate dean for academic affairs at the law school, which is located in King Hall, will assume his new position on July 1, replacing current dean Rex Perschbacher.
Perschbacher said he believes UC Davis Law School is ready for a change in leadership.
“When I began [my term] in 1998, I only imagined staying on for 10 years maximum,” he said in an e-mail interview. “After 10 years, a law school benefits from a change in vision.“
Perschbacher said that he believes it was Johnson’s outstanding qualifications that led Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef to recommend him to the regents.
“[Johnson] stands out for his astonishingly productive scholarship, excellent teaching, 10 years of administrative experience and national profile,” he said. “He was overwhelmingly endorsed by the law school faculty.“
Johnson, a graduate of Harvard Law School, joined the UC Davis law school faculty in 1989 and has served as an associate dean for the past 10 years. He is known for his expertise in immigration and Chicano studies and has published several books on American immigration and border law.
Johnson is the recipient of numerous honors and awards including the 2004 Clyde Ferguson award from the Association of American Law Schools. In 2006 he was named the Law Professor of the Year by the Hispanic National Bar Association.
Johnson said he looks forward to building on Perschbacher’s numerous achievements.
“Dean Perschbacher has overseen an intellectual renaissance at the school of law,“ he said. “I will do my very best to take the school to the next level while maintaining the special King Hall community that we have today.“
Johnson said that, despite the current budget cuts being made across the UC system, he remains optimistic about the future of the law school.
“Fundraising and development will need to be a priority,“ he said. “The budget is quite a challenge, but I am confident with the support of alumni and friends of UC Davis School of Law, we will be able to weather the difficult times ahead.“
“The greatest challenge the law school faces is maintaining access for all qualified students in a time of greatly increased student fees,” Perschbacher said.
He said that he believes Johnson will continue his goal of moderating fee increases and increasing student financial support in the face of the budget crisis.
Hollis Kulwin, associate dean for student affairs at the law school, said she is confident that the regents have selected the right person for the job.
“I have known [Johnson] six years,” she said. “He is a wonderful colleague and a brilliant scholar. [He is] an excellent choice.“
ERICA LEE can be reached at email@example.com. XXX