New Dean Aims to Put Law School at the Top
By Richard Wilkinson
Veryl V. Miles is a longtime professor of CUA’s Columbus School of Law, an experienced administrator, and — since Aug. 1 — the school’s first female dean and first African-American dean. But what Jennifer Johnson, one of Miles’ first bosses, likes to focus on are the dean’s listening skills: “Veryl listens to you as if you were the only person in the world, a skill that will be invaluable as dean of the Catholic University law school,” Johnson says.
Veryl V. Miles
Johnson, secretary of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, was the person who hired Miles to work as a lawyer in 1980, the year that Miles graduated from CUA’s law school. “I have watched Veryl’s career climb to great heights since she left the board in 1983, and none of her achievements have surprised me,” Johnson says. “Catholic University is smart to have chosen her as dean.”
There are very few black, female deans leading America’s 190 law schools. “There are currently only two,” says Miles, who was inspired to study law to emulate the heroic black lawyers who fought the legal battles of the civil rights movement.
“It is wonderful for this university to make this opportunity available to me as an African-American and a woman,” she says. “I think it is an important statement for The Catholic University of America because Catholic education has been a place of opportunity for many minority communities in the past, and the ideal of Catholic education is inclusion and opportunity. I’m very grateful to Father O’Connell for giving me this opportunity.”
In appointing Miles dean, Father David O’Connell, CUA’s president, said in a written statement that “her academic credentials are of the highest caliber and her professional background singles her out among peers as incredibly well suited for this leadership position at CUA.”
“Veryl Miles’ personal integrity and professional commitment will inspire the entire law school community,” opines George Garvey, CUA’s vice provost and dean of graduate studies and a professor in the Columbus School of Law. “In the best Catholic social tradition, Dean Miles understands that the law must promote social justice and foster the common good.”
Miles has taught at CUA since 1988. The focus of her teaching and research has been bankruptcy law, a subject to which she has applied the teachings of Catholic social thought, e.g., in a 1996 article she wrote for the Santa Clara Law Review. From 1997 to 1999, she served as associate dean of academic affairs for the law school, the chief operations officer for the school’s academic program.
After that experience, she was “bitten by the administration bug,” she says, and took another step toward an administrative calling: a leave of absence to serve as deputy director of the Association of American Law Schools from 2001 to 2003.
At that association of 166 U.S. law schools, “I got a bird’s-eye view of what other schools are doing and how they address problems in different ways,” she reflects. “Getting to know so many law schools gave me a heightened appreciation for CUA’s law school and its many excellent and innovative programs. I also saw that a lot of law schools and prospective law students aren’t aware of CUA’s excellence and strong programs.”
As dean, Miles intends to remedy that situation.
Her written vision for the Columbus School of Law is to move it forward “to become nationally recognized as a top-tier law school; to become the leading Catholic law school in the nation; and to become the leading legal institution in the country where important questions and discussions can be heard concerning the balance of law, morality, faith and religion.”
These are lofty goals, she admits. Miles will work to achieve them through a national campaign to spread the word about the law school’s excellence and what it means to be a Catholic law school. During the 2005-2006 academic year, “spreading the word” will involve celebrating and publicizing the following anniversaries of some of the law school’s most innovative programs:
The 35th anniversary of the school’s clinical legal education program, which U.S. News & World Report ranks as the 11th best such program in the nation. Clinical education is the part of a law school education that teaches students practical skills such as client representation, client counseling and trial skills.
The 25th anniversary of the school’s Institute for Communications Law Studies and its Securities and Corporate Law Program.
The 20th anniversary of the school’s Law and Public Policy Program, its Comparative and International Law Institute, and its Interdisciplinary Program in Law and Religion.
“CUA was well ahead of the pack of other law schools in beginning these kinds of specialized programs,” Miles explains. “It’s important to tell people about our unique, distinctive and long-standing programs. It’s also important to tell people what our alumni are now accomplishing in these areas of specialization. Some of our very accomplished alumni who have participated in these programs as students include Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy of the Federal Communications Commission and Congressman Richard Renzi, who represents the 1st District of Arizona.”
Miles also plans to organize a national summit of religiously affiliated law schools, thus positioning CUA as a leader among such schools.
To achieve her vision, Miles says she will concentrate on fundraising, working to bring in the money that will help the school attract an even more academically excellent and diverse student body, support program innovation and increase its number of faculty. “I can’t wait to brag about the school to alumni and others, to engage them more fully with the school and to increase their financial support of our school.” she says.
Miles is a lifelong parishioner of St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, where she serves as a lector. She lives in the Brookland neighborhood adjacent to CUA with her husband, Jacob Wormley, and their two sons, ages 16 and 12.
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Last Revised 26-Aug-05 12:34 PM.