Dean LaVonda Reed took the helm at Georgia State College of Law in July 2021. Attorney at Law Magazine sat down with her to discuss her career along with her plans for the law school.
AALM: You were appointed dean of GSU Law in July of last year. How have you adjusted to your new role?
LR: It has been a whirlwind of activity making the big move from Central New York to Atlanta in the middle of the pandemic, but it has been tremendously rewarding for us. I started working on the transition last spring almost immediately after the announcement of my appointment. The faculty, staff, and students at the College of Law have been wonderful during the transition by welcoming me into the community, restarting in-person classes, and re-energizing the life of the building.
AALM: How did your position at Syracuse University prepare you for this position? What was the biggest adjustment?
LR: My position and all of the projects I engaged in during my 15 years at Syracuse University most definitely prepared me for this moment. From my experience as a member of Syracuse University College of Law faculty to those as the associate provost for faculty affairs, I worked at a very high level on many initiatives impacting the entire institution.
AALM: You’ve been in education for some time, but is there anything you miss about your private practice?
LR: I really do not miss private practice. It was a good experience while it lasted, but ultimately, I am an educator at heart and feel very much in my element in this space. I enjoy the opportunity to prepare future lawyers and continue to be a resource to my students beyond their law school years.
AALM: What first drew you to a career in the law? How is your career different today than you expected?
LR: I was motivated by the opportunity to make an impact on society and the lives of individuals. I have had the opportunity to participate in the profession in my role as a teacher, a scholar, a law clerk to a federal judge, a university administrator, and an attorney in private practice. It has been more than I ever could have imagined when I made the decision to attend law school.
AALM: Tell us about some of your mentors and the best lessons they taught you.
LR: Do not underestimate yourself. Laugh loudly and often to take the edge off of some of the heaviness of the work. Give back and pay it forward. Teach and be teachable. Reach and be reachable.
AALM: Law schools have faced a lot of change in recent years. What changes do you think are here to stay and what new shifts do you see on the horizon?
LR: There is concern about the looming enrollment cliff, which is a shortcut for the smaller number of college-age students in coming years and smaller numbers of people pursuing a college education which is a prerequisite to attending law school. Additionally, law schools have to continue to innovate to keep up with societal needs and technology and to continue to build in our students the knowledge and skills they will need in order to be successful.
AALM: GSU Law recently partnered with Alterity ADR to launch a program focused on ADR, mediations and arbitrations. Tell us a bit about the history behind this venture and your hopes for the program?
LR: I am very excited about our partnership with Alterity ADR for many reasons. It is exciting to build upon this part of our curriculum and to create more experiential learning and professional development opportunities for our students. Through this partnership, GSU Law students will get the opportunity to learn from and with neutrals as Alterity ADR seeks to increase and diversify the pipeline of neutrals. Alterity ADR will host programs in our building and afford students an opportunity to learn from some of the best in the field. We have some existing curricular offerings in this space, and it is very exciting to build on them.
AALM: What other ways are you hoping to expand the educational opportunities at GSU Law?
LR: Over the next year, we will as a community including our faculty and staff and students engage in strategic planning where we will explore a multitude of opportunities. We already have a few exciting things in mind that we will carefully and thoughtfully flesh out in that process. Stay tuned.
AALM: At Syracuse University, you were involved in several diversity initiatives. To date, what program (or other work you’ve done) are you most proud of and why?
LR: I am happy to have led the search for the first Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion officer and the inaugural University Ombuds. While there I also elevated discussions around the issues of gender equity and career advancement for women, and also advancing professional development around issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.
AALM: Tell us about some of your work in the community.
LR: I am a member of The Links Incorporated, and through that organization I have volunteered many, many hours to initiatives in the community around the arts, services to youth, and international matters of concern to women of color around the world. I also am a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, which is one of the Divine Nine historically Black Greek-letter service organizations. I volunteer in the Youth Ministry at Ebenezer Baptist Church here in Atlanta, and I am a frequent speaker to students and career professionals.
AALM: Tell us about yourself outside the office. What do you do to unwind?
LR: Read. Listen to music—mostly jazz and “Quiet Storm”-type of R&B. But I have diverse tastes in music as evidenced by my iTunes library. I love cranking up the speakers on a road trip with my mom and daughter and singing as we roll. I also enjoy travel and spending time with friends and family.
AALM: What is something your colleagues would be surprised to learn about you?
LR: I have a great sense of humor and am quite funny. My new colleagues are beginning to see that side of my personality.
AALM: Looking back on your career so far, is there anything you’d change?
LR: No. Not really. If I were to say anything, I would have overthought things and second-guessed myself less. I might have taken more risks and stretched myself a little sooner.