MSU professor is a strong advocate of women's rights

By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

Hannah Brenner, a professor at Michigan State University College of Law, is a champion of women's rights who teaches Domestic Violence, Gender, Power, Law & Leadership, Global Perspectives on Women in Law, and Law and Gender.

She was also recently appointed as co-director, with MSU College of Law Professor Renee Knake, of the Kelley Institute of Ethics and the Legal Profession.

"The institute, named for Frank J. Kelley, the longest serving attorney general in U.S. history, signifies his dedication, professionalism and ethical code that marked his 37 years of service to the State of Michigan," Brenner says.

Her research interests include women's advancement, equality, and leadership in the legal profession, and issues related to domestic violence. She also is a core faculty member and serves on the advisory committee of the MSU Center for Gender in the Global Context.

Prior to joining MSU in 2009, she served as the first executive director of the Center for Women in Law at the University of Texas School of Law.

"The program was designed to confront barriers that stand in the way of women's advancement in the legal profession by convening leaders, generating ideas, and leading change," she says.

Under Brenner's leadership, the Center hosted the inaugural Women's Power Summit on Law & Leadership, an event bringing together leaders from all sectors of the legal profession with the goal of developing a blueprint for the continued advancement of women in law. She remains active in these national efforts for reform.

A native of Elgin, Ill., Brenner spent a year at Brandeis University before transferring to the University of Iowa where she earned a bachelor's degree in American Studies/Women's Studies, and her J.D. from the University of Iowa College of Law.

"I spent an engaging semester abroad as part of Antioch College Women's Studies in Europe program; it was during this semester that my interest in the intersection of law and gender really emerged," she says.

Prior to MSU, she taught at the University of Oklahoma, where she also directed a statewide women's political leadership program designed to address the historic under-representation of women in politics and public service.

Her recent publications include "Gender and the Judiciary in South Africa: A Review of the Film Courting Justice," in the Yale Journal of International Affairs; and co-authorship (with Professor April Zeoli, "A Summary and Analysis of Warrantless Arrest Statutes for Domestic Violence in the United States" in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

She currently is engaged in an extensive collaborative research project with Knake.

"We analyze media portrayals of nominees to the Court and evaluate what this information might reveal about gender disparity in positions of power in the legal profession," she says.

The pair recently completed an article about the first phase of their research, "Rethinking Gender Equality in the Legal Profession's Pipeline to Power: A Study on Media Coverage of Supreme Court Nominees (Phase I, The Introduction Week)" which is forthcoming in the Temple Law Review.

Brenner, who in her spare time enjoys travel, cooking, and spending time with her three children, Isaac, Aidan and Willow, is passionate about teaching, and mentoring law students.

"I especially enjoy teaching smaller courses, or seminars; a seminar means, quite literally, 'an exchange of ideas' among participants. I learn so much from my students," she says.

The MSU Law College is an exceptional institution, Brenner says.

"I have wonderful colleagues on the faculty, and our student body is very dynamic. It's also a tremendous benefit being situated within a major research university. Our connection with MSU fosters interdisciplinary collaborations and the development of exciting relationships with other faculty and students."

Published: Thu, Jun 16, 2011

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