Law School Dean Establishes Public Interest and Rural Community Sustainability Fund
Posted on May 20, 2013
Stacy L. Leeds, dean and professor in the School of Law, has pledged $50,000 to establish an endowed fund to support students committed to public interest work and rural community sustainability. The Public Interest and Rural Community Sustainability Fund will provide summer stipends to students in the Juris Doctor and Master of Laws programs who are pursuing public interest law or working with private firms in underserved communities. The fund has the ultimate goal of addressing problems of access to justice and rural economic development created by the low number of attorneys per capita.
“It is always encouraging to see our faculty and staff become personally invested in our programs, because it shows how much they care for the university and its success,” said Chancellor G. David Gearhart. “Dean Leeds is no exception. I applaud her for stepping up and supporting an initiative that is a personal interest and passion of hers, while also advancing the School of Law and the university.”
The Public Interest and Rural Community Sustainability Fund will allow students to accept jobs in sectors where they may not otherwise be paid for their work or where compensation is well below market rates compared to positions at private firms in the region. This work can be performed for the public interest, which may include, but is not limited to, non-profit organizations; federal, state or tribal government agencies; and private law firms in small towns in Arkansas and within the Cherokee Nation.
Law school students will have the opportunity to concentrate on public interest commitments during their enrollment, while benefiting from a stronger financial position from which to engage in a public interest career upon graduation.
“Access to justice is a key component of both individual and community empowerment,” said Leeds. “This fund will create opportunities for our students to serve the subject matters and the geographic regions most in need of legal representation, while ensuring the continued viability of two sovereigns dear to me — the state of Arkansas and the Cherokee Nation and the individual citizens of both.”
Leeds, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, joined the University of Arkansas in 2011 and became the first American Indian woman in the country to serve as dean of a law school. In 2013, she received the American Bar Association Spirit of Excellence Award for promoting a more racially and ethnically diverse legal profession. Over the years, she has focused her teaching and extensive research on property, natural resources and American Indian law.