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Behind the Columns

A Kind of Home

Where intellectual rigor meets collegiality.

Odette Lienau, Marianne D. Short, Esq., Dean.  Photograph by Kelly Davidson

What a pleasure it is to write my first column as Boston College Law School’s dean. Like so many, I have thought carefully about where I wanted to build a career, especially in light of the upheaval of these last several years.

I wanted a place that combined intellectual rigor with a commitment to practical experience. I wanted an institution dedicated to educating top-notch lawyers with a sense of service to others, no matter the legal arena they work in.

I wanted a collegial school that believes in supporting personally fulfilling careers, and recognizes that this looks different for different people. And I wanted a community that includes engaged and generous alumni, committed to addressing the world’s challenges and to supporting the next generation.

That is BC. In the months leading up to my arrival, I engaged in a number of activities and conversations with members of this remarkable community. I came to see the BC Law mission, drawn from its Jesuit heritage, as concentric circles of service and justice—focused on addressing the needs of the school’s students, faculty, and alums, but also the larger university, the city and state, the country, and the world writ large.

This vision is crucial to the moment we find ourselves in today. The world has experienced real struggle, with Covid-19, ongoing racism, economic uncertainty, and threats to democracy and the rule of law.

We have seen dangerous levels of social polarization and the dissolution of thoughtful discourse. Now, more than ever, the world needs top lawyers who recognize the equal dignity of all.

BC Law knows this. It has, for nearly 100 years, supported faculty and shaped students who can be a living embodiment and an extension of this aspiration. The more I learn about this institution, the more I believe that the world doesn’t simply need lawyers to answer the call at this significant moment. It needs BC lawyers.

“The more I learn about this institution, the more I believe that the world doesn’t simply need lawyers to answer the call at this significant moment. It needs BC lawyers.”

Dean Odette Lienau

Today’s students know it too. They are driven by causes and want to make a difference in the world. And BC Law provides both the rigorous academic experience and the nurturing environment they need to succeed in their chosen paths.

Indeed, I have started to think of BC Law as a kind of home: an intellectual home that challenges people to excel and to become the best version of themselves, but also a community committed to fostering warmth and belonging for all its members. Especially given the likely shifts in legal work in the coming decades, both of these qualities will become even more important.

As has become clear through my community conversations, those shifts will also require us to build on our curricular strengths, broaden experiential opportunities, expand diversity and affordability, raise rankings, and modernize facilities and technologies. All of this will serve to educate a nimble, creative, and ethically informed legal profession going forward.

I have also heard about the authentic connections among classmates, faculty, and staff, which seem to go on forever. In my experience, that is something truly unusual at a law school. These bonds are evident across campus and in the many ways our alumni give back—from mentoring current students to participating in events, from funding scholarships and endowing faculty chairs to keeping in touch with classmates and faculty for decades after graduation.

I am thrilled to be part of this remarkable community. I hope you will join me in its new chapter, looking together toward BC Law’s upcoming centennial.