In this final installment in a series of interviews with the deans of the three law schools in ourstate, Seattle attorney Claire Been sat down and talked with Dean Kellye Y. Testy of the University of the Washington School of Law. In 2009, Dean Testy became the 14th permanent and first female dean of UW Law. Dean Testy is known throughout academic and
legal communities for her dedication to
the rule of law and its commitment to justice and equality. She served as chair of
the UW Presidential Search Committee
in 2010–11 and was elected chair of the
Board of Deans and Chancellors. Dean
Testy is also on the Executive Committee of the Association of American Law
Schools. Prior to UW Law, she was dean
at Seattle University School of Law.
CLAIRE BEEN: How did you come to be
the dean of the University of Washing-
ton School of Law?
DEAN KELLYE TESTY: Let me start by
giving a little background. I am a first-generation college graduate who grew
up in southern Indiana. I believe that
education is a privilege and that broad
and affordable access to education is
critical. Public higher education is especially important to me because public
institutions have always been the “great
equalizers” in our society.
I was eager to go to college because of
my interest in playing college basketball,
and even though I soon found my love of
academics trumped my love of basketball, I have always been grateful for that
encouragement into higher education.
After graduating, I worked in marketing
for several years in Northern California.
After that, I returned to Indiana to attend
law school — the only law school to which
I applied. I loved it. During law school, I
worked for Kirkland & Ellis in Chicago
and after I graduated, I clerked for the
Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
I transitioned into academia after my
clerkship ended. David Skover, a Univer-
sity of Puget Sound professor, taught as
a visiting professor at Indiana and en-
couraged me to apply there to teach law.
I started teaching in 1992 and in 1993,
Seattle University bought the school.
Though I continued teaching, I became involved in administration early in
my career as I tried to help the school integrate into Seattle University. Over the
transition period, I played a strong role
in forming the identity of the new school.
When the school was looking for a new
dean, my colleagues looked to me to step
into that role.
I was at Seattle University for a total
of 17 years, around five as dean, and I
began to perceive that it was time to
provide space for new leaders in the law
school. Sometimes the strongest way to
grow new leaders is to step out of the way
and give them room to lead. I was eager
to remain part of Washington’s legal
community, so I was excited when the
provost of the University of Washington
called me about their dean search. It was
a good time for leadership transitions at
both schools and I became the dean of
UW in 2009.
Is there anything that surprised you
about being a dean?
When you first become a dean, it is surprising how little you know about much of
the school and the university, even when
you have been at that school. There are
many parts of operations that faculty just
don’t see. Also, it surprised me how much
I miss my students. As dean, it is harder
to really get to know students when you
are not in the classroom consistently. At
UW, I try to get to know them through
having lunch with each class periodically, going to events, teaching as a guest
in my colleagues’ courses, and just being
in the halls to interact with the students.
What do you like most about being
dean of the University of Washington
School of Law?
What I like the very most about being
a dean is that I get to help faculty, staff,
and students achieve what they want
to do, helping them knock down barriers to their goals. I love trying to make
the whole more than a sum of its parts.
At UW in particular, I love how we have
been able to balance having a very ambitious school with also having a collegial
school. Sometimes those two things
don’t go together, but here they do. I
also love the global scope of the school
and the interdisciplinary collaborations
we have with the rest of the University.
Also, the alumni at this school are really
amazing. Our graduates do such diverse
things with law, and seeing the diverse
things that people do with a law degree
is very rewarding.
What has been different about being
the dean of Seattle University versus
University of Washington?
The schools are very different because
their universities are very different.
Also, the age of the schools makes a big
difference. UW Law is almost 115 years
old whereas SU moved to Seattle in 1999
— changing cities and institutional affiliations when it did so.
The primary difference is that UW is
a major public research university. The
law school is just one part of an amazing
enterprise that is central to the economy
of Washington state. There is a strong
global and interdisciplinary atmosphere
that being part of a public research institution brings. And today the law school
is in partnership with many of the other
schools and colleges here as we develop
more strength in areas such as the environment, health/global health, business/
entrepreneurship, and IP/technology.
For instance, we have a major Arctic Initiative with the College of the Environment and a new Tech Policy Lab, which is
a coordinated effort of the law school, the
information school, and the computer
science and engineering department. It
is the first in the country of its kind, and
An Interview with University of Washington School of Law Dean Kellye Testy