Op-Ed: Andrew Popper is the students' choice for WCL dean
Life often boils down to two things: connections and compassion. I am not talking about Washington-style connections, I am talking about the intangibles that are developed only by exuding compassion from your core. If these attributes are a measure of a person, then Andrew Popper measures among the best.
Since Claudio Grossman has announced his resignation, he left a vacancy at the Washington College of Law, both from a leadership and personality standpoint. The Administration has undertaken a process to replace the Dean, but many of the students believe that there is one candidate that stands above the rest. This candidate is Professor Popper. His attributes are many but one of special import is his experience and institutional knowledge; he has been a WCL faculty member since 1978. Professor Popper has also served in various administrative positions, including associate dean and chair of the admissions committee.
In these roles, Professor Popper has become intimately familiar with the inner workings of the school and has taught almost a third of the current alumni, facts that none of the other candidates can boast. His profound institutional knowledge will allow him to hit the ground running and jump immediately into the responsibilities of Dean without having to lose time developing relationships with students, faculty, alumni and donors.
Besides his great background, Professor Popper’s vision for the future is what drives students to support him. In a speech on Friday, he reiterated that his main priority is to change the perceptions surrounding WCL and to advance the school in the national law school rankings without compromising the institution’s essential values and educational goals. He believes that WCL is a first-class educational institution which produces intelligent, competent and compassionate lawyers in a variety of fields and that it is only fitting that the school’s reputation reflects that. He seeks to improve the reputation of WCL to go beyond a “Public Interest” law school, as it has become known. According to the American Bar Association, public interest law involves service-oriented law geared towards “helping people,” often those below the poverty line. Professor Popper hopes to show the legal community that WCL is an institution that above all produces skilled lawyers, in all fields. He values the community-service aspect of law, but hopes to make WCL stand out beyond one discipline.
Professor Popper is also committed to procuring resources to increase the availability and value of merit scholarships for students, according to his speech on Friday. He intends to do this through more proactive fundraising initiatives and through improved alumni relations. In addition, Professor Popper wants to also utilize these improved alumni relationships to build a better career network for students. Through his compassion and commitment to education, Professor Popper has built these alumni connections after personally teaching over 7,000 WCL students.
However Professor Popper’s connections go far beyond simply teaching students. He takes a personal interest in their lives, gets to know his students, and years later people remember him and turn to him for help, recommendations and mentorship.
Tracy Bienenfeld, a former student of Professor Popper signed the petition in support of his appointment to dean of WCL, and she said she remembers him as a persistent professor who always wanted to see his students succeeed.
“I cannot imagine having had a better professor, mentor, or advocate in law school than Professor Popper,” Bienenfeld wrote on the petition. “He not only wrote letters of recommendation for me for all of my job searches, but he personally called many of my job prospects. I cannot imagine students having a better advocate than Professor Popper. He would make an outstanding Dean.”
Building this type of intimate connection with alumni goes beyond simply having access to a database, it goes to the hearts and minds of the community.
In addition to his considerable alumni connections, Professor Popper also brings a vast network of contacts to WCL in a variety of fields, thanks to his work in tort reform, personal injury litigation, administrative law and policy formation and social work. As the legal market changes, it will be critical to have a dean who has experiences and connections in a wide range of fields.
While Professor Popper boasts an impressive resume and stands on a platform full of positive initiatives , perhaps his greatest attribute is the student support, and the backing from alumni. Within 12 hours of WCL students starting a petition to tell the administration of the community choice, almost two hundred students added their signature to the list. The petition is available here. Perhaps the best demonstration of who Professor Popper is comes from a WCL alumnus from Professor Popper’s first year of teaching, Richard Brusca.
"Andy started with me at WCL in 1978. Of course, he was a professor, and I was a student. It was immediately clear to me that this was a man who really cared for the institution and its constituencies,” Brusca said. His long tenure is a testament to his loyalty, and I have no doubt the school's alumnae will be extremely pleased if he were to be made Dean. In a city filled with so called ‘great men,’ Andy stands apart as a good man. He is the clear choice. Don't blow it."
Brusca said it the best, Andy (Professor Popper) is a good man, a caring and compassionate person, and is the clear choice. AU Administration, students: Let’s not blow it!
Allan Poteshman is a second year student at the Washington College of Law.