Benson named interim dean at Wayne Law

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Jocelyn F. Benson has been named interim dean at Wayne State University Law School.

Photo by Robert Chase

 

Ackerman announced in the fall that he would not seek another 5-year term

By Steve Thorpe
Legal News

Newly named Wayne State University Law School Interim Dean Jocelyn F. Benson is a firm believer in moving forward, whether on her daily run, in a marathon or leading an educational institution.

So does her run still happen on a day like this, when the weather is being somewhat less than cooperative?

“Always! Every day,” she says, with a laugh. “I actually enjoy running in the snow. I don’t enjoy running in sleet, but then there’s always the treadmill.”

Benson was named as Interim Dean of on Dec. 17 and will lead the school until a new dean is chosen near the end of 2013.

However long she holds the position, she’s excited about the school’s prospects.

“The law school is in a position to move forward significantly over the next year and I’m excited to lead it during that time,” Benson says. “We have several initiatives that have been growing over the past year that I’m looking forward to helping move forward. There’s, of course, the Keith Center for Civil Rights, which opened to such great fanfare about a year ago and will continue to be a hub for civil rights research, information and leadership. We’ve also got a growing international law program that will be welcoming students from China and other nations to our law school. It will help position our school to be a larger presence in the international legal world. One of the other programs that I’m excited to help grow is the Law, Business and Entrepreneur Program where we link law students with individuals who want to start small businesses in metro Detroit.”
Outgoing Dean Robert Ackerman announced in the fall of 2012 that he would not seek reappointment to another five-year term as dean and is slated to return to Wayne Law as a professor in the fall of 2013. John Rothchild, associate dean and associate professor of law, served briefly as acting dean until Benson was named interim dean.

After earning her bachelor’s degree magna cum laude from Wellesley College, Benson earned a master of philosophy as a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University and her law degree from Harvard Law School. 

In 2004 Benson helped develop the first nationwide Election Protection program for the Democratic National Committee.

Benson has been a member of the faculty since 2005 and served as associate director of the school’s Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights. She also created and directs the center’s Michigan Allies Project, which tracks hate incidents in Michigan and provides legal support for victims.

She is the author of “State Secretaries of State: Guardians of the Democratic Process,” published in 2010. It is the first major look at the role of the secretary of state in enforcing election and campaign finance laws. Benson was also the unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Michigan’s Secretary of State in the election that year.

She also founded and became president of Military Spouses of Michigan, a group dedicated to providing support and resources for the spouses of those serving in the military.

An avid long distance runner, she averages two full marathons per year. She completed her 15th marathon, Washington D.C.’s Marine Corps Marathon, in October and has also completed the Boston Marathon.

Early in her career Benson clerked for Judge Damon J. Keith and worked as a legal assistant to Nina Totenberg at National Public Radio. She also did a stint investigating hate groups and hate crimes for the Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Montgomery, Ala.

Her experience clerking for Judge Keith was the beginning of a passionate commitment to the city of Detroit. At a time when many were fleeing the city, she and her husband chose to move in.

“I live in the city, my husband and I were married on Belle Isle, clerked for Judge Keith, who’s an icon of our city, and it’s very important to me that the city continue on the upward path it’s been on for the past decade,” Benson says. “It’s reemerging as a vibrant place to live, work and play. It makes it really exciting to be leading the law school right now because the school has an important role to play in that process.”
 

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