Emory University School of Law Dean Mary Anne Bobinski has decided to step down from her position and return to a full-time faculty role in summer 2024, at the end of her term, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Ravi Bellamkonda announced on March 14. The University will launch a national search for the next dean in the coming weeks.

Bobinski, who has served as dean since August 2019, was the first woman to hold the title in the law school’s over 100-year history. Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Research Margo Bagley (96L) wrote in an email to the Wheel that she was on the search committee that first identified Bobinski, adding that she “thoroughly enjoyed” working with the outgoing dean.

University President Gregory Fenves wrote in a March 14 press release that he is “grateful” Emory will continue to benefit from her knowledge as a faculty member. 

“Dean Bobinski has led the Emory University School of Law with a deep understanding of the trends in the legal profession,” Fenves wrote in a March 14 press release. “She has made forward-thinking decisions, recruiting a talented and diverse faculty while engaging alums across the country.”

Bobinski earned her bachelor’s degree and juris doctorate degree at the State University of New York at Buffalo and her master of laws degree at Harvard Law School (Mass.). She previously worked at the University of Houston Law Center as the John and Rebecca Moores Professor of Law and director of the Health Law and Policy Institute. In 2003, she moved to Canada to teach at the University of British Columbia Peter A. Allard School of Law, where she also served as dean until 2015.

Emory School of Law Dean Mary Anne Bobinski will step down from her role to rejoin the faculty in summer 2024. Courtesy of Emory University 

A dozen new faculty members were hired during Bobinski’s tenure at Emory, including both senior- and entry-level recruits with a variety of legal expertise. The law school also began recruiting faculty members who focus on the legal aspects of artificial intelligence technology as a part of the University’s AI.Humanity initiative.

“I have been honored to lead the Emory Law community through a period of transformation and growth and my colleagues and I look forward to advancing our plans to support students, attract outstanding new faculty and enhance the law school’s national standing and impact over the coming year while preparing for a leadership transition,” Bobinski wrote in the March 14 press release.

Bagley noted that Bobinski smoothly navigated the law school through “unprecedented times and choppy waters” with wisdom, calm confidence and a dry humor.

“She has overseen the hiring of a new cadre of faculty that will transform the law school and has rightly focused on improving the student experience and outcomes in important ways,” Bagley wrote.

Emory School of Law Distinguished Professor Thomas Arthur said he recently spoke with Bobinski, recalling that she felt that the law school is “in a good place now.”

“If she was going to have a time stepping down, this was a good time to do it, in which the school would have a whole year to do a search without having to have an [interruption],” Arthur said. “She would still be there to keep doing the job while ready for sort of a seamless transfer to a new successor without this kind of interim dean problem.”

Arthur added that Bobinski’s role as dean is difficult, physically exhausting and feels like a 24/7 job.

“I was happy for her personally, if this is what she wanted to do,” Arthur said. “But I thought for the school, she’d been doing a good job, and I was hoping that she would want to go for a second term.”

The law school was thrust into the national spotlight during Bobinski’s tenure after several professors used slurs in academic settings, sparking student protest and wide-spread debates about free speech in academia. Bobinski responded to the situation, noting that although the University does not ban the use of particular words or controversial ideas, saying a slur without a pedagogical reason is inappropriate and not protected by Emory’s free speech policies.

Senior Director of Decision Support and Data Management Chaun Stores wrote in an email to the Wheel that Bobinski prioritized “ensuring the current viability and long-term stature” of the law school during her deanship.

“She is always accessible and willing to put her interests aside for the betterment of others,” Chaun wrote. “Her attention to detail and openness to accept different ideas and perspectives are invaluable.”

Update (3/14/23 at 7:52pm): This article is updated to note that summer 2024 is the end of Emory University School of Law Dean Mary Anne Bobinski’s term.

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Ashley Zhu (she/her) (25C) is from Dallas, Texas, majoring in biology and minoring in sociology. She is the vice president of recruitment for the Residence Hall Association, a sophomore advisor for Raoul Hall and a staff writer for the Emory Undergraduate Medical Review. She is involved in cell biology research at the Pallas Lab and is a BIOL 141 Learning Assistant. Zhu enjoys FaceTiming her dog, stalking people's Spotify playlists and listening to classical music in her free time.