Ever wonder what a law school’s chief administrator does?

Throughout the month of January, University of Tennessee College of Law Dean Melanie Wilson shares her experience in leading the college, its faculty, staff, and students. Follow her journey through this blog.
January 2, 2018 12:57 am

Throughout the month of January, University of Tennessee College of Law Dean Melanie Wilson shares her experience in leading the college, its faculty, staff, and students. Follow her journey through this blog.

Wednesday, January 31:

My day divided into five parts: teaching; attending a faculty meeting to continue tenure discussions; scholarly writing; meetings and other office work; and exercise. I think I’ve detailed a couple of my criminal procedure classes already, and I know that I’ve discussed some of the administrative work — emails, letters, meetings. I’ve also explained the rigorous review that every faculty member undergoes to earn tenure. That just leaves scholarly writing and exercise as topics.

As for writing, I was delighted to carve out time for it, and I owe my junior colleague, Briana Rosenbaum, a big thank you for helping me commit to that time. Professor Rosenbaum suggested that we set aside a space and several hours every week during which all faculty working on a scholarly writing project can meet and write in silence (but with support from each other).

I spent 75 minutes between my class and the faculty meeting working on an article that I began many months ago. I spent another 60 minutes writing a small section of the same article between the faculty meeting and a meeting with a student who wanted to talk about the alternative spring break activities our students undertake every year. Sitting in a quiet room with few distractions and a clear purpose made it easy to write, especially when a couple of other faculty colleagues were sitting nearby, typing away. It was great.

As for the student meeting and alternative spring break week — many of you know that every year when many students are sunning on a beach or hiking in the mountains, dozens of UT Law students provide free legal services to deserving clients under the supervision of a licensed attorney. Last year, our students helped people in Flint Michigan (water issues), Louisiana (immigration matters), and North Carolina (drafting Code for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians). The student and I are going to explore ways to find more funding to support these projects. In addition to providing pro bono service to so many in need, these students often end up paying significant hotel fees and food costs along the way. We want to find a person or group interested in helping defray those costs, so that more students can take part.

As for exercise — I grabbed some time just before the sun set to go for a short run along the river. The temperature was perfect, and the sky was beautiful. I even saw a Great Blue Herron fishing in shallow water.

So, that’s it for the day — and it’s also a wrap on January.

Thanks for taking a peek into a few of my activities during the month of January. If you’ve read more than one or two entries, you know that I have a fantastic job, complete with some truly remarkable people to work with.

I’ve been happy to share January with you, but I regret that so many other months and activities aren’t represented at all. For instance, in September, October, and November, we host a number of events and interact with so many alumni, often in conjunction with home football games. In June and July, a group of us — development, career services, admissions (and me) — travel across Tennessee meeting with alumni and holding receptions in Memphis, Nashville, and other cities to thank everyone for their engagement. You really didn’t get any insight into those activities.

You didn’t get to hear about the bi-yearly meetings of the Alumni Council and Dean’s Circle groups in February/March and September/October. Those alumni groups include some of our most generous alumni — those who give their time, intellect, and money — to support our faculty, students, staff and mission.

You didn’t hear anything about the really interesting CLE programs we host throughout the year. You didn’t learn about the symposia the various student journals sponsor. You weren’t exposed to my work updating and editing the criminal procedure books I co-author. You didn’t hear about all of the really interesting scholarly articles the faculty submits for publication in March and August. You didn’t hear me talk about the joy and pride I feel when so many accomplished students walk onto the stage in May and receive their “hood,” signifying that they have earned their UT Law J.D. or the excitement we all feel when new 1Ls show up for orientation in August.

We have so many interesting events and people in our building throughout the year. And, we have some extraordinary students. hope you will continue to keep up with all we are doing by following the college (@UTKLaw) and me (@mdwilson_utk) on Twitter and on the UT Law homepage. Even more importantly, come see us! You are always welcome!

Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018:

I checked my Fitbit an hour or so ago and realized that I was little more than half way toward my goal of 10,000 steps per day. And I was way behind on my 250 steps per hour goal, too.  So after a cool, brisk walk with Choden and a chance to admire the beautiful moon, I’m ready to focus on this work. I still don’t have the full 10,000 steps for the day, but I’m closer.

The lack of steps corresponds with all of the sitting I did today. Thankfully, the sitting was accompanied by a number of productive conversations and discussions.  The conversations began in a meeting with the director of our nationally recognized legal writing program, our associate dean for academic affairs, and me. We were strategizing about course coverage and program development. Then, I met with Brad Morgan, our director of career services, to talk about the many ways we are supporting our 2017 graduates who are still seeking legal employment. We know that at least 88% (88/100) of our recent graduates are employed, and we are committed to helping the others find meaningful employment.

There was also sitting during the lunch-time faculty meeting (a continuation of our tenure discussions), during a meeting with associate dean Alex Long to talk about academic assessment, and during a meeting with associate dean Teri Baxter and the Interim Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement, Robert Nobles, to talk about the law faculty’s scholarly outputs.

In between meetings, I reviewed a number of faculty requests to travel (to scholarly conferences), sent out some birthday cards, answered a number of email inquiries, and quickly read a news story on the national security risks posed by the use of Fitbit devices in war zones. I can envision a number of Fourth Amendment issues related to Fitbit monitoring. Tomorrow, I’m going to try to accomplish just as much, while moving a lot more.

Monday, Jan. 29, 2018:

Dean Melanie Wilson’s Great Dane Choden is always up for an evening walk, despite this evidence to the contrary.

Finalizing a nomination letter in support of a faculty member seeking to participate in a University program, electronically verifying attendance for my criminal procedure course, completing a text book order form for the Fall, 2018 semester during which I will teach criminal law, and participating in another faculty meeting to discuss a junior colleague’s application for tenure — those are a few of the projects I worked on during the first half of the day.

The afternoon continued with odds and ends, including: impromptu meetings with various colleagues, the review of newly released statistical data from our college and that of other UTK colleges, reflecting five-year trends in enrollment, credit hours per faculty, and grant funding. I also spent the usual hours on email, and began reading for my Wednesday class.

This evening, I spent time reading a transcript of Governor Haslam’s remarks from his final State of the the State address. I also took Choden for a walk before going for a short jog myself.

It’s been a fairly easy Monday, so I’m going to be able to watch at least the first half of the Kansas-Kansas State men’s basketball game.  If it’s a close one, as it should be, I’ll probably hang on for the whole game.

Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018:

If you like cool, damp weather, today was your day.  It rained from early morning to about 3:30 p.m, and the temperature stayed in the high 40s and low 50s much of the day. So, I spent most of it inside and at home.

I used the rain as an excuse to tackle a bunch of paperwork and complete a number of on-line forms that I’ve been putting off. This included paperwork needed for some meetings upcoming with the Provost, paperwork to review and complete for personal business matters, and surveys and RSVP forms to finish for various studies and events.

After such a sedentary Sunday, I finally sloshed through the puddles with the dogs in the late afternoon before watching the Lady Vols (recorded earlier in the day) lose to LSU and then the South Carolina women literally scuffle with the Missouri women for a close basketball win. Looking forward to a good but uneventful week with a number of meetings, some classes, and a little time devoted to scholarship.

Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018:

Knoxville’s running paths offer great opportunities for exercise and dog walking.

Except for sending, forwarding, and replying to a small handful of emails that could not wait until tomorrow, I took today as a personal day.

I slept in a little (to 6:30), read the local paper (the old fashioned way), made my favorite breakfast — a kale, fruit, and pea protein smoothie, distributed seed to my bird feeders, and then walked each of my dogs (except Boomer, my senior baby). Having exercised my four-pawed babies by 9:15, I went for a short run by myself.

After a shower, it was off to the home of some friends who were hosting a fundraiser brunch. Then, it was back home to check on the dogs before leaving for the matinee performance of “Cabaret” at the Tennessee Theatre.

Following that, I enjoyed some time at home watching recordings of the day’s Tennessee-Iowa State and Kansas-Texas A&M men’s basketball games, as well as a little of the women’s professional “Pure Silk” golf tournament in the Bahamas. It was a relaxing and enjoyable day. And, I am very happy with the 17,000+ steps I compiled along the way.

Friday, Jan. 26, 2018:

I felt like I needed running shoes today.  Especially for a Friday, it seemed like my schedule was tight.

The day began with class preparation and then class from 8:30-9:45. My students were very engaged with the material and each other.  For example, we covered a case involving a “stop and frisk” and, when that didn’t uncover contraband, another more intrusive frisk during which a police officer “squeezed, slid, and manipulated” an object in a suspect’s clothing until the officer was almost certain the object was crack cocaine.  Everyone in the class seemed satisfied that Terry v. Ohio allowed police to stop the suspect to investigate whether he was committing a crime, because the neighborhood was “notorious” for crack sales, it was late at night, and the suspect had engaged in “evasive” action when he saw police.  The class seemed equally satisfied that the second frisk violated the Fourth Amendment because it equated to a “full blown search” on less than probable cause.  But, there was vigorous debate on whether the officer could frisk the suspect.  It’s clear that the students are already appreciating that police officers face many uncertainties when deciding whether and when to stop, search, or arrest a suspect.

Professor Becky Jacobs offers a mediation session to the Knoxville community.

After class, I met with a prospective student who was visiting the college. Then, I reviewed my notes on the tenure case that was being presented over the lunch hour, and wrote some thank you notes, before I attended the faculty meeting during which we continued to discuss the tenure files of the junior faculty who have applied for tenure.

Following the faculty meeting, I had twenty minutes to grab lunch at my desk before my afternoon meetings and responsibilities started.  About 4:30, things slowed down.  At that point, I had time to check on the significant progress just down the hall.  The remediation of the wet and damaged wing of our building continues.  And, they are making good progress; thank goodness.

At 5:30, I was delighted to attend part of Professor Becky Jacobs’s Mediation Clinic class in which law students join attorneys and others from the community to learn how to mediate matters.  Completion of the Clinic satisfies the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Rule 31 mediation certification.  During my 90 minute visit, a panel of experts, including UT Law alumnus Chancellor Michael Moyers, talked to the class about a number of issues including:  the importance of serving as a neutral party, ethical concerns that arise during mediations, the challenges of using translators and sign language experts, and the concerns of serving as a mediator when one of the parties is a victim of trauma.  The Mediation Clinic is another example of how we combine theory and practice in our curriculum so that before they graduate, students obtain the substantive knowledge they need with the get-it-done basics of practicing law

Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018:

Most of today centered on reading tenure files and otherwise preparing for the first of several faculty meetings to discuss the work of three junior faculty who have applied for tenure. For those less familiar with the tenure review process, you might be surprised how extensive the review is. Not only does a faculty member spend years building her skills and compiling a body of work that she is proud to present to her faculty peers for evaluation, the faculty, students, staff, administrators, and professional peers across the country carefully scrutinize every aspect of the faculty member’s professional life.

By the time most faculty apply for tenure, every tenured member of the faculty has visited at least one, if not many more, of his classes. The tenured members have carefully reviewed each piece of the applicant’s scholarly writings, has scrutinized his curriculum vitae, and served on committees with the applicant. In addition, a three-person tenure committee reviews each applicant’s teaching evaluations, seeks input from students about the quality of the applicant’s teaching, and asks staff and others to comment on the personal qualities of the applicant.

Also, “peer reviews” — usually five to seven of them — are obtained from experts in the applicant’s same area of scholarly expertise. These experts are asked to evaluate the applicant’s scholarship for excellence and the likelihood that the applicant will continue to make contributions to the mission of the college. More often than not, the reviewer has no relationship with the applicant and holds tenure at a “more prestigious” school than the school considering tenure. And, I’m happy to say, that my experience is that everyone takes the process extremely seriously — the applicant faculty member; the reviewing faculty; the students; and the peer reviewers.

Now, I’m off to prepare for tomorrow morning’s criminal procedure class. We are covering “dog sniffs,” among other cases. I love dogs, and I love criminal procedure, so tomorrow is already destined to be great.

Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018:

My “to do” list for the day included four major items:  1) teach a successful constitutional criminal procedure class; 2) attend the January lunch meeting of the Executive Women’s Association; 3) meet with and thank one of our distinguished alumni, U.S. Air Force Col. Wayne Dillingham, who during the lunch hour shared with students his experience as a JAG officer and as an attorney for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); and 4) review the research, teaching, and service records of three faculty members who are applying for tenure this semester.

Class went well. The students were on top of the material. At least a dozen of them engaged with me and their classmates on the major Supreme Court cases discussing anonymous tips and reasonable suspicion, including White, J.L., and Navarette (which includes a dissent by Scalia, joined by Kagan, Sotomayor and Ginsburg — not a group often found agreeing on debatable legal issues ). Many of the students seemed surprised how little proof or even suspicion police need to lawfully stop, i.e., seize, someone as a means to investigate further.

Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Wayne Dillingham talks with students about his experience as an attorney in the military and the FBI.

The Executive Women’s Association meeting was impactful and thought provoking. The meeting began with a tribute to a member who recently passed away after a long battle with cancer. Even in the face of such a life-altering disease, Michelle Henry left a legacy of positive energy that lives on in everyone who knew her. After the tribute, we heard from an expert on human trafficking, a fitting topic for an executive women’s group, given that this is a crime that disproportionately impacts women and children.

Following that meeting, I hurried back to the college in time to meet with Col. Dillingham and thank him for giving back to the college by talking with all of our students about the pros and cons of a career in the military. It is alumni like him who add infinite value to the college by contributing their time and resources. Some of our alumni reach out to admitted students and talk with them about the strengths of a UT law degree. Others mentor students who are preparing to take the bar exam. Still others advise students and recent graduates on employment opportunities. And, thankfully, we have so many generous, talented, and accomplished alumni.

Finally, later in the afternoon, when the pace of the office clean-up slowed, I found some quiet time to review tenure files, read mail, respond to email, and catch up on other administrative tasks. All-in-all, it was a really good day, complete with a vivid reminder to bring your best every single day.

Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018:

Everything at the college felt closer to normal today. Yes, we are still spread out across the building, with faculty in various makeshift offices. And, yes, there are more than a dozen new people in the building moving furniture and boxes of papers to storage and rearranging fans and dehumidifiers. But the major chaos has passed. And, having spent most of yesterday in the Leadership Tennessee program and out of the office, it was nice to spend a full day back in the building.

I held my usual, biweekly, Tuesday meetings with the half of my leadership team that I did not meet with last Tuesday. I caught up on mail and emails that had piled up Sunday and Monday when I was out of the office; I checked on our relocated faculty and staff; and I prepared for tomorrow’s criminal procedure class.

After the regular workday ended, I snuck in an hour of qigong, a practice that combines slow movements, breathing, and meditation to improve relaxation and energy, before I drove over to “the Standard” for the Hamilton Burnett Inn of Court Winter Banquet, which featured Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Amul Thapar as the keynote speaker.

I’m looking forward to another “normal” day tomorrow.

Monday, Jan. 22, 2018:

Students at Emerald Academy discuss their academic experience with members of Leadership Tennessee.

The Leadership Tennessee program continued today. Having seen so much positive in terms of business, development, and collaboration yesterday, we were on a bus bound for Emerald Academy charter school by 7:15 a.m. to learn a bit about the challenges facing Knoxville’s urban youth. Speakers on our first panel included my Leadership Tennessee classmates, Dr. Keith Gray and David Rausch, Knoxville’s Chief of Police. I am so impressed with Dr. Gray’s personal commitment to youth in this city and with the extensive engagement of Chief Rausch and his officers. Apparently Chief Rausch has even taken dance classes in an effort to connect with inner-city youth. I hear there is a YouTube video with proof. Now that’s dedication. After the introductory panel, we met the very energetic director of Emerald Academy, Renee Kelly, and a number of the student-scholars who attend Emerald. Each scholar talked about his or her love for the teachers and the opportunities provided by the school. Nevertheless, none of the students loves the fact that they are required to wear uniforms.

The last panel of the morning discussed education, equity, and equality. They shared disappointing statistics about suspension rates and achievement gaps in Tennessee’s schools. Every day 150,000 students are absent from school, and 5,000 students are suspended.  This discussion made the success of Emerald Academy even more impressive.

The afternoon discussion of challenges in Knoxville (and Tennessee) included information and statistics surrounding the opioid addiction crisis. We heard, for example, that Knoxville is the epicenter nationally for people addicted to opioids. But, we also heard about the groundbreaking research UT Medical Center is conducting to help babies of opioid addicted mothers avoid experiencing symptoms of drug withdrawal.  And, we heard from the district attorney general’s office about a voluntary program through which defendants can pursue rehabilitation and obtain drug addiction treatment, rather than experiencing only punishment. Likewise, we heard from doctors who are changing the way (and amounts) they prescribe to reduce the likelihood that a patient seeking to control pain will inadvertently become addicted.

Interestingly, about the time we were wrapping up our program, Governor Haslam was holding a press conference outlining a comprehensive plan to address the wide-spread challenge of opioid addition. I am energized from the 26 hours I spent with the impressive leaders in my class from across Tennessee. I realize we have challenges to overcome, but with so many engaged, bright, and committed Tennesseans thinking about solutions, you should be bullish on Tennessee too.

Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018:

Members of the 2017-2018 class of Leadership Tennessee spend some time touring the downtown area of Knoxville.

It’s 10:15 p.m. and I’m just returning to my room after spending the afternoon and evening with my Leadership Tennessee classmates.

Leadership Tennessee is a program bringing together leaders in business, nonprofit organizations, education, and government from across Tennessee. We learn, share information, and collaborate on issues confronting all Tennesseans. Today, we convened at 1 p.m. in Knoxville. (We have already visited Memphis and Chattanooga). We spent the first 120 minutes in small groups talking about issues facing Tennessee that are of particular interest to individuals within the class. Every 40 minutes, we would change issues and groups. We covered several topics, including civility, police-citizen interactions, autonomous transportation, and the opioid epidemic.

After our group discussions, we took a walking tour (for about an hour) of downtown Knoxville, admiring all of the businesses, renovation, and development, before taking a bus tour of the University and Cumberland Avenue on our way to Regal Entertainment Group’s headquarters. At Regal we heard from a panel of experts on the partnerships between Knoxville, private partners, and/or UT that has brought progress to the city. Interim Provost John Zomchick (UT) participated in that panel discussion. Later, it was off to dinner at the museum, where we heard from Mayor Rogero, Bill Lyons, and others, while several notable previous Leadership Tennessee class members looked on. Chancellor Emeritus Jimmy Cheek was there, as was former UT Women’s Athletic Director, Joan Cronin. The afternoon and evening were both enjoyable and thought provoking.

And, because we didn’t start class until 1 p.m., I was able to spend the morning exercising, walking dogs, talking to my parents by phone, and catching up on some family time that the recent broken water pipe break has hampered.

Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018:

Weekends at Dean Melanie Wilson’s house are for the dogs.

My goals for today were straight forward: support the college’s continuing clean up and office relocation efforts; check in on my colleague from across campus who is out on medical leave; respond to emails and other correspondence that piled up since Thursday’s water fiasco; and prepare for my upcoming Leadership Tennessee program.

I suppose that achieving three out of four isn’t bad. At school, there was a great deal of progress made on cleaning up, drying out, and moving affected faculty and staff to temporary space. I also visited one of my dean colleagues who is undergoing in-residence rehabilitation for a health challenge. I was happy to see that he remains in good spirits and intent on a full and speedy recovery. And, finally I read and responded to all of my urgent messages and mail. Preparation and packing for Leadership Tennessee, which resumes tomorrow at 1 p.m., will have to wait until first thing in the morning.

I would have completed all four tasks but the warm up and sunshine of the afternoon called me outside. The temperature reached 50 degrees and the sun was bright. After the bitter cold we’ve experienced lately, I felt compelled to get outside with my four-legged babies. And, everyone needs some vitamin C.

I’ll simply get up an hour earlier tomorrow.

Friday, Jan. 19, 2018:

The work on the College of Law cleanup continued throughout the night.  When I arrived this morning at 7:15, the dehumidifiers were humming loudly, fans were drying the carpeting and floors, and men and women were vacuuming water, removing ceiling tiles and floor molding, attempting to reduce the likelihood that mold and mildew will form and spread. There was also a crew of movers on hand to help professors move their belongings to their temporary offices.

Notwithstanding the noise and movement in the hallway outside my office, I was able to focus long enough to prepare for class, which started at 8:30.  Today, we covered a classic in criminal procedure — Terry v. Ohio in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that under limited circumstances, police may forcibly stop (seize) a citizen and subject her to a “frisk” (search), provided the officer has specific information sufficient to cause a reasonable law enforcement officer to believe that crime is afoot.  Until the 1968 decision in Terry, the Court had required officers to have a higher level of suspicion — probable cause — before forcibly engaging with a suspect.  Terry essentially tipped the privacy/government balance more in favor of the government.  And, in doing so, the Court increased concerns that police would use their discretion to harass, especially people of color.

Because we were still celebrating MLK, Jr., week and because Terry raised issues of policing and race still relevant in today’s criminal justice system, we also talked about these issues during class.  To prompt discussion, we read a short article entitled “Policing in black & white” by Kirsten Weir (Dec. 2016), which recounts several studies and statistics on police bias and shootings by police.  We divided into small groups to discuss the article before opening the discussion to the whole class. The discussion did not disappoint.  Several students with different backgrounds and experiences shared those, providing all of us with a lot of information for thought and reflection.

After class, the day flew by.  I interviewed a third and final candidate for our open position in admissions. I finalized three separate letters nominating faculty for university-wide awards. I made the rounds in the water-damaged areas checking on progress and making sure everyone was getting help they needed to continue the salvage work.
I need to check in on everyone again tomorrow morning. The cleanup continues over the weekend.

Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018:

Two broken sprinkler heads are to blame for the flooding of offices on three floors of the College of Law on Jan. 18, 2018. Twenty-five faculty and staff have been relocated to other spaces in the building while offices are restored.

When I came to the College of Law in July of 2015 to serve as dean, I had heard the term “Volunteer Spirit” many times. After all, I grew up in the South, watching all of the SEC football teams, including Tennessee. And, I admired and followed Pat Summitt and every team she coached (didn’t everyone?). But until I witnessed our students working clinical cases and representing clients as part of their alternative spring break and Gatlinburg fire pro bono efforts, I did not fully appreciate the meaning of those two words.

Today, our students, staff, and faculty again exemplified the Volunteer Spirit.

My day started as one full of information sharing. From 9 a.m. to a little after 11 a.m., I participated in the first “Council of Deans” meeting of 2018. This group meets about twice per month. The (interim) Provost, John Zomchick, chairs the meeting. Today we talked about a number of issues, including: the Board of Trustees’ interest in data from all of the colleges on the Knoxville campus; electronic learning; cluster hires; and a new database of statistical information available to deans. After the deans’ meeting, I hurried back to the college to get ready for our first faculty meeting of the semester during which we discussed: how we award professorships; our 1L orientation program; advising of students; and similar topics. Shortly after that, I interviewed a candidate for an open position in our office of admissions and began to prepare for a meeting with our tax faculty, when the fire alarm sounded.

Because the high temperature today was in the low 20’s, I worried that the alarm was not a drill. And while, thankfully, there was no fire, the alarm was not an exercise. Due to the very cold temperatures overnight, two sprinkler heads in the ceilings broke. When they did, the water in those pipes gushed out, quickly puddled on the floors, spread down the hallways, and leaked through the ceilings to the floors below. Worse yet, the leaks started on the third floor and soon seeped down to the second and first. Ceiling tiles fell. Water covered desks, chairs, sofas, books, papers, photos. You get the idea. It was, and is still, a real mess.  Many of my colleagues came back from the drill to find their belongings soggy and ruined. It was upsetting to say the least.

Nevertheless, the crisis brought out the best in so many members within our community. I saw more than a dozen students sloshing through water, carrying armfuls of professors’ belongings to drier spaces. Professors whose offices were unaffected saved items from offices that were. Staff and faculty from the library showed up and pitched in. Everywhere you looked, someone was helping someone else.  In other words, the Volunteer Spirit was in full swing.
Our building and many of our faculty and staff’s valuables sustained damage. But the damage definitely could have been worse and more widespread. Because of the selfless efforts of so many, the water was contained much quicker than it could have been, and a great number of items were salvaged. I’m so thankful for these amazing colleagues, and I’m feeling very proud of our students.

Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018:

As my grandma used to say — I was “up and at ’em” early today. I like to get up early when I teach, so that I have plenty of time to review my notes and materials one last time before class.

Getting up by 5 a.m. gave me a chance to feed the dogs and take my time getting ready before I left for school. But, because of the bitter cold — lows around 8 degrees, coupled with yesterday’s snow fall, by 5:30 we were notified that UT was on a delayed start. We were not opening until 10 a.m. As a result, my 8:30 class was canceled. That was a bummer, but I didn’t dwell on it because there is always plenty to do.

Dean Melanie Wilson meets with students as part of the College of Law MLK celebration activities.

I immediately shifted gears to all of the unfinished regular business — email review, letter drafting, thank-you note writing, and similar tasks. I met with a handful of staff and faculty on a variety of topics, and I prepared for tomorrow’s meetings, including our regularly scheduled faculty meeting and a meeting of the Council of Deans — a bi-monthly meeting of the deans, provost, and vice provosts. I also tied up some of the loose ends related to the Tennessee Court of Appeals’ upcoming “docket day” at the college. On February 20, we will have the honor of hosting a panel of the Court who will hear oral arguments in our building. That will obviously give our students a rare opportunity to see the Court in action.

The highlight of my day happened during the lunch hour. As part of our week-long celebration of the life of Martin Luther King Jr., our faculty committee on community and inclusion hosted a lunch opportunity, complete with foods that Dr. King enjoyed. As part of that lunch, the committee organized small groups of interested students, staff, and faculty who ate together and talked about issues of diversity and inclusion. Law students led each discussion and selected the topics to guide the conversations.

My group covered a number of interesting topics touching on race, implicit bias, classism, fragility, immigration deportation, and others. I was so impressed with how these students showed thoughtfulness and risked vulnerability in sharing their ideas and challenges. I also noted how receptive they were to hearing opposing views, and that they understood that as a practicing attorney they would represent people from a variety of backgrounds, with different views, and biases and that they needed to be ready to counsel people that do not think like they think.

Spending this quality hour with these students and other members of the law school community, all of whom demonstrated a genuine interest in fostering diversity within the college, was inspiring. During the afternoon and evening, I reflected many times on this lunchtime conversation. The students gave me much to think on, as they always do. Boy, are they thoughtful and smart.

Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018:

Every Tuesday, I meet with about half of the college’s leadership team in 30-45 minute, one-on-one conferences.  Today, I met with our academic dean, director of our law library, director of academic success, director of the advocacy center and interim director of the clinic, our dean of finance and administration, and the director of our communications unit.  Because these folks are really capable and uniformly committed to the success of the college, these meetings are typically encouraging.  On average, at least half of each meeting is devoted to talking about progress on projects and plans for even more progress. And, of course, we brainstorm on any challenges we are facing in reaching our goals.

Every other Tuesday, (today included), we also meet as a group.  Each director and assistant or associate dean reports to the group on the latest news in her area of leadership.  This more inclusive meeting allows everyone to hear what others are accomplishing and tends to encourage collaboration among units and the exchange of information that sometimes sparks new ideas.

The College of Law enjoyed the first snowfall of the new year on Jan. 16, 2018.

Admittedly, as useful as all of these meetings are, they still involve a lot of sitting still and a lot of listening and talking.  There’s not much “action” for me on Tuesdays.  Because there is so much sitting, I make every effort to exercise on Tuesdays, either at the beginning or end of the day, if not both.  Today, my exercise came at the end of the day in the form of the elliptical, which is not my favorite.  I was stuck inside with the elliptical, other than a short walk in the snow with my female Dane, Choden, because today was an unusual weather day, complete with about an inch and a half of snow and falling temperatures.

Although most of the day was devoted to meetings (and a little to exercise), I did enjoy an opportunity during the lunch hour to hear UT Psychology Professor Michael Olson present to the law school community on the dangers of implicit bias.  Dr. Olson’s presentation was part of this week’s events to honor the legacy of Dr. King.  I learned quite a bit.  Perhaps the two most interesting take aways from his research for me:  1) even those of us who are mindful that we have biases are unable to control those biases simply because we genuinely care about equality and fairness; and 2) calling out implicit prejudice in others, even if glaring, will engender defensiveness and entrenchment of the prejudicial behavior.  In other words, our ingrained, subconscious biases are tough to combat.  Really interesting.

Stay safe and warm everyone.

Monday, Jan. 15, 2018

The College of Law was closed today in celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and legacy. Like so many others across the country, I took time to reflect on Dr. King’s courage, sacrifice, selflessness, and wisdom. There are so many lessons in Dr. King’s words and acts.
Dean Melanie Wilson enjoys a moment of down time over the weekend with her Great Dane.

I also used the day for some work tasks that required a block of time to complete. For example, I’m serving on a University committee that owes a recommendation to the Provost this week, so I spent some time on that project. I began preparation for my Wednesday and Friday classes because with a short week, most of my time Tuesday and Thursday will be filled with meetings. And, I spent time reviewing some of the college’s statistics for 2017, including trends about our fundraising, admissions, employment outcomes, and number of credits hours per faculty member

In the two and one half years I’ve enjoyed the honor of serving as dean, our fundraising, admissions and employment numbers have improved steadily. But, our 5- and 10-year trends on credit hours per faculty member have been in a decline because fewer students have been attending law schools nationally.

Before the sun set, I made time for my four-legged children. The temperature is predicted to gradually drop between now (Monday evening) and Wednesday afternoon. I wanted to make the most of the warm(ish) 42 degrees before the severe cold and (supposedly) snow returns. Like me, all of my babies like it warm and sunny, so the next two days will be rough on all of us.

 Hope everyone found inspiration from MLK, Jr., Day.

Sunday, January 14, 2018:

Sundays are nice. They allow for so much flexibility. I completed a number of work projects today — wrote some thank you notes, reviewed several memoranda, completed some administrative approvals, and also found time to spend with family and friends, feed the outdoor birds several times, walk dogs, and exercise.
University of Tennessee Lady Vols freshman guard Elvina Westbrook.

I probably would have accomplished even more, but for a couple of hours, I was engrossed by the Lady Vols’ away game against South Carolina.  No surprise that Mercedes Russell and Jaime Nared looked very smooth on the court.

But, it was the freshmen who were most fascinating, especially Evina Westbrook, who scored 14 points and ran the floor like a veteran, and Anastasia Hayes, who really increased the tempo and focus of the game.

Hope everyone takes a few minutes tomorrow to reflect on the incredible progress Dr. King accomplished during his life and the courage and commitment he showed for civil liberties in the face of serious and dangerous opposition.  I often remember Dr. King’s words when I need inspiration to act or speak.  “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”  And, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018:

The YWCA is one of the many impressive organizations in Knoxville. The organization’s slogan is “eliminating racism and empowering women.” And every year, the Y hosts a number of events and programs supportive of those aims. As part of our 2018 celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life, the college fielded a team today for the YWCA Phyllis Wheatley 5K race against racism. Because the severe cold continued, the turnout overall was a bit small, as was our team. But, it was a quality team. And, there were a number of UT Law alumni and law students at the event too — Robyn and Jerry Askew, Beth Ford, and Savannah Flowers, among them.
Ellen Cole and Dean Melanie Wilson participate in Phyllis Wheatley 5K race sponsored by the Knoxville YWCA.

Thankfully, my colleague Ellen Cole was racing for our team. Ellen works in our development office and is a powerfully positive force. I’ve never seen Ellen have a bad day or fail to find the bright side of a challenge. So, there was no way I could skip the race (even if it was 26 degrees that felt like 16 when the race began). I’m not saying I didn’t have thoughts of staying home and warm, and catching up on some work. But, I couldn’t let my team down, and it’s hard not to support an organization committed to “eliminating racism and empowering women.”

Even with the cold, once we were underway, it was enjoyable. The camaraderie, the worthwhile cause, the exercise that one might otherwise forgo on such a cold day — it was all good. Although it was tough to find your teammates in the crowd. Everyone was so bundled in hats and layers, we all looked the same.
Having already braved the cold for several hours to take part in the race and related activities, when I returned home, I decided to take my pups for walks. As a result, I achieved my “steps” goal for today. Now, I’m going to catch up on my email while I watch recordings of this afternoon’s Tennessee-Texas A&M and KU-K-State men’s basketball games.
Thanks team for another great day.

Friday, Jan. 12, 2018:

The cold, icy, and snowy weather in Middle Tennessee foiled my plans to drive to Nashville this afternoon to attend a dinner hosted by the Tennessee Bar Foundation. Once Nashville decided to close the public schools, and the milk, bread, and cat food started disappearing from the grocery shelves in the city, I figured that the odds were strong that the Foundation dinner would be cancelled. It was certainly the right call for safety, but I am disappointed to lose a chance to spend time with the impressive fellows of the Foundation, many of whom are alumni of our college.
Thankfully, the weather did not spoil my criminal procedure class earlier in the day. Although it’s only day two of the course, I’m convinced that the members of the class are going to challenge and learn from one another and keep me on my toes.  Many of them were unimpressed by the Supreme Court’s holding in United States v. Drayton. After less than 90 minutes of in-class study of the Fourth Amendment, many students wanted to explain why the majority was wrong in finding that Mr. Drayton and his traveling companion, Mr. Brown, voluntarily consented when law enforcement asked to search their luggage and pat down their bodies. In other words, my students are already thinking deeply about how these important constitutional principles impact real people in their day-to-day lives. I love it!

Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018

Students have returned to the College of Law following the winter break from classes.

Today was a catch up day.  By the usual standards, things were slow. Besides the typical email flow, I participated in a couple of meetings — one with some of my leadership team to brainstorm about a possible collaboration with theChancellor’s Honors Program, another with the college’s associate dean for faculty development to talk about external funding for research.

I also spent part of the afternoon preparing for tomorrow morning’s criminal procedure class. In the first part of the class, we will wrap up our discussion of Hodari D by watching a video clip. I want the students to determine at what point the Fourth Amendment is implicated.

The video shows a police officer chasing, and eventually tripping, a suspect. And, no discussion of 4th Amendment seizures would be complete without an analysis of Drayton, the bus case. After we cover those cases completely, we will examine the major U.S. Supreme Court cases involving road blocks — Sitz and Edmond — before we wrap up with cases on stop and identify statutes — Brown and Hiibel.

The ease of the day’s schedule allowed me to take a few minutes to walk the hallways visiting with staff and faculty who were making sure that the first week of classes is going well for students. It is so good to have the students back in the building.  After all, they are why we do what we do.

Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018:

What a satisfying day. The 2 and 3Ls in my criminal procedure class were on-time, prepared, and engaged. They demonstrated that they had read the assigned materials carefully and were thoughtful and analytical when I posed hypotheticals changing the facts of our cases in small, but important, ways. The 75-minute class flew by. I’m already looking forward to Friday’s class when we resume our discussion on how to distinguish seizures of a person that implicate the Fourth Amendment from consensual interactions between police and citizens that don’t.
I also enjoyed kicking off the new

semester (and the new year) alongside many of my staff and faculty colleagues. Rather than a December holiday gathering, this year, we opted to host a January new year’s lunch, and even the weather cooperated. It’s rare that so many of us have any opportunity to go off campus together, let alone sit together and enjoy a meal with one another.  It was really nice.
After lunch, I worked on some nominations of faculty for University awards, wrote thank you notes to several alumni and faculty who have made recent gifts to the college, and answered a few dozen emails, before I caught up on the most recent oral arguments in criminal procedure cases pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. In Byrd v. United States, the Court heard oral argument this week on the Fourth Amendment rights of a person who drives a rental car but is not listed as an authorized driver in the rental documents. In Collins v. Virginia, the Court heard argument on the parameters of the automobile exception to the Fourth Amendment as it relates to the police’s search of a motorcycle stored on private property near a home.

Having a job that requires me to engage with bright students, dedicated colleagues, and cutting edge legal decisions – priceless – not to mention the 60 degree January weather here in Knoxville today.

I’m definitely going to find some time this evening to walk dogs.  It would be a crime to miss this opportunity to get outside this evening.

Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018:

Classes begin tomorrow — can’t wait for students to be back in the building!!!! But that means time flies and the pace of everything increases.

Once the semester officially begins, I have to find time to properly prepare for class in addition to keeping the momentum on our other projects – supporting graduates who are preparing for the February bar exam and those who are still looking for just the right law job, attracting the best and brightest future students, brainstorming with my leadership team and faculty on innovations and ideas, fundraising. I feel so fortunate to serve as dean here. Definitely keeps me hopping.

Our hallways are empty today, but just wait until tomorrow when classes begin.

From our faculty coffee this morning (a new idea I’m trying out this semester — to get the faculty together once per month for coffee and bagels, so we can catch up without necessarily talking business), to my individual meetings with various program directors, to our senior management team meeting, there has not been one spare moment today. Wouldn’t be bad – usually I like busy – except I stayed up late watching Georgia almost beat Alabama.

So, tonight, I catch up on my class preparation.  I’m going to put on my slippers, get my Mastiff-Dane helpers in place for moral support, and prepare for my first class of the semester.

Criminal Procedure is great stuff. Tomorrow we will take a look at the justice system generally, including exploring the pros and cons of the broad discretion in the system.  That means exploring the disparate impact our system has on the imprisonment of African American men, the benefits and risks of using “snitch” witnesses to prosecutor others, the secrecy involved in the grand jury system, and many, many other interesting and sometimes controversial topics. We will also begin our study of the Fourth Amendment. Students are almost always surprised how little protection the Fourth Amendment actually provides for our privacy and liberty.

Can’t wait.

Monday, Jan. 8, 2018:

This morning I was up early to spend some time with my pups before attending this year’s Fundraising Summit for Academic Leaders and Development Officers, which began at 8 a.m. Most of the deans were there, as were most of our development professionals, even our regional representatives from miles away.

Provost John Zomchick led off the summit with some thank yous to everyone for their extensive fundraising efforts, noting how important private giving has become in the face of declining state support. Vice Chancellor Chip Bryant gave everyone a quick update on campaign progress and last year’s giving (through November) before we heard from John Tannous, Director of Research Delivery.
John Tannous, UT Director of Research Delivery, speaks at the fundraising summit for academic leaders and development officers.

Tannous talked about gen-xers and millennial donors, opportunities for creative stewardship, entrepreneurs and fundraising,  and facilitated some group brain-storming exercises to allow colleges to take a few minutes to work together in thinking innovatively about these issues.

We concluded just after 12:30, and I headed back to the College of Law to catch up on mail (we are still receiving a few end-of-year gifts) and to meet with one of our technical librarians who is helping me try a new teaching program in my criminal procedure course this semester. I’m learning to use “Nearpod,” which is an interactive classroom computer platform, allowing a teacher to play videos, engage students with quizzes, and display important points in easy-to-read print.  I’m usually fairly low tech when I teach, but we know that today’s students communicate differently. They grew up using technology, so I’m attempting to meet them where they are. We shall see how it goes.

If it doesn’t work well, I can always resort to the old methods, but I’m optimistic that mixing up delivery methods in the classroom will keep students engaged and energized about some really serious and important material. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes. First class is this Wednesday, after all.  In fact, I need to put the final touches on my syllabus.

Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018:

Dean Wilson enjoys her pets, Stella Mae, an English Mastiff, and Choden, a blue Great Dane.
Today was rest and family day.
I slept in a little this morning and then spent some quality time walking and playing with my dogs, apologizing to my cats (if you have cats, you understand), and feeding the outdoor birds who have had a tough, cold week.

I managed to get my remaining emails answered and then worked a bit on my criminal procedure syllabus.  And, of course, I watched the Lady Vols prevail over Vanderbilt to reach a perfect 15-0 record.

I bet there will be some students back in the building tomorrow because classes start Wednesday.  Looking forward to that energy and enthusiasm.

Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018:

Today was a travel day. My flight from San Diego to Houston departed a bit after 8 a.m. My next flight From Houston to Knoxville left at 2:25 p.m. But with time changes, I landed in Knoxville a bit after 5:30p.m. So, not much accomplished today, other than sending and responding to a few emails and making some notes on the conference.

Oh, and I read an interesting article from The Guardian while on the plane. It explored the increasing use of brain scans and brain science in criminal cases, particularly during the sentencing phase of cases seeking the death penalty.

It’s great to be home. Lots of wags waiting for me. Even warm weather can’t beat that.

Friday, Jan. 5, 2018:

Even given the time change, 6 a.m. seemed early today. Last night’s dinner honoring outgoing female law deans Gail Agrawal of the University of Iowa, Jane Korn of Gonzaga University, Stacy Leeds of the University of Arkansas, and Maureen O’Rourke of Boston University (who was unable to travel due to weather) went late into the evening. But, it was really fantastic. In attendance were two of the very first female law deans who are living pioneers. After all, these women attended law school as students when there were fewer than ten women in an entire law school class. Then, they went on to become deans at a time when there were no women in those leadership roles. That dinner was great inspiration and especially energizing for today’s marathon deans program.

The Law School Admission Council has announced that as of Dec. 29, 2017, law school applications are up 17.1% over last year.

Today, all of the deans attending this conference have met in one place. This year’s program is titled “Effective Deaning.” It began with a breakfast business meeting at 8 a.m. We heard from Kellye Testy, president and chief executive officer of the Law School Admission Council, about the slight increase this year so far in law school applications. Later, there was a session revealing some of the findings from a Gallup field survey to determine how undergraduate students make decisions about whether to pursue law school. Then, we broke out into smaller sessions to talk about various challenges facing our law schools. I chose the session that delved further into the Gallup findings. After the morning sessions, we participated in a working lunch hosted by the ABA section of legal education and heard from Barry Currier, managing director of the ABA section. Later this afternoon, we will meet in more break out sessions before we finish at 4 p.m.

As soon as that meeting concludes, I’ll be scurrying over to the California Western Law School for the Society of American Law Teachers awards celebration. My former Kansas colleague, Lua Yuille, is being honored with a junior faculty teaching award. Then, I’ll hurry back to the AALS meeting for the Women’s Leadership in Academia presentation, and I’ll wrap up the day at the AALS President’s Reception where Paul Marcus officially completes his term as president.

It’s a tight schedule, but it’s all really informative and enjoyable. My only regret is that I’ve been unable to hear my UT Law colleagues’ presentations and see them longer than passing in the hallway. Joan Heminway is receiving an award for her influential mentoring of other professors. Brian Krumm is part of a discussion on community economic development and access to justice. Jonathan Rohr is presenting at a session on agency, partnership, LLCs, and unincorporated associations. And these are just a few examples.

I’m feeling very proud of my talented UT colleagues today. And, that makes me fortified to get back to Knoxville tomorrow, even if it is still very cold.

Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018

My mind and body still think we are in a Knoxville time zone. So, I struggled to sleep until 5 a.m. this morning. But it was nice to get moving early. I managed to find the hotel gym last night, so I was moving a little slow this morning from muscle soreness anyway. And, the extra time gave me a chance to review today’s conference schedule and get in 20 minutes of meditation.

At 8:30, I met some of my former Kansas colleagues for tea. It’s always interesting to hear how different law schools approach the various challenges facing us, as well as how they approach different aspects of teaching and scholarship. Plus, these are such nice people. I like keeping up on how and what they are doing. One is pregnant with her third child, for example.

After tea, it was on to the conference. My friend, Paul Marcus, moderated a panel discussion on access to justice. And, thankfully, I ran into Paul yesterday late and was able to spend a little time hearing about his year as AALS president and to congratulate him on a recent teaching award from William & Mary. Paul and I also talked a little business. We co-author three publications together, so there are always loose ends there to tie – on deadlines or new editions.

In one of the panels I attended called “Design Thinking for Law Professors,” Daniel Linna from Michigan State introduced me to the term “lean thinking” as it relates to continuous improvement toward excellence. Another panelist talked about how important it is to “flip” your view of problem solving when trying to innovate and how it can be important to use more visuals and fewer words when brainstorming ideas.

I’m going to take a quick walk and grab some lunch before I attend the 1:30 (PST) session on book publishing, but this afternoon will be busy and enjoyable, too. At 4:30, I’m attending the AALS reception to mingle with others from across the country before I attend a reception and dinner for several female deans who are stepping down this year. After that, I’m meeting my friend and former boss, Stephen Mazza, for coffee/tea to catch up.

Hope all of you are staying warm.

Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018

This morning I awoke early — at 4:15. My flight from Knoxville, connecting in Houston for San Diego, departed at 7 a.m.

The airport has been busy with longer security lines lately. When you take that into account along with the time that it takes to feed and care for Mastiffs, Danes, and cats in the morning, well … you get the point.
My flights were mostly on time, and I made it to the hotel in San Diego by 12:30 (PST) (3:30 (EST)).  I am now on the hunt for a quick bite of food before I walk to the law professors’ (AALS) conference just down the block.  There’s not enough time for me to catch too many sessions today, but I definitely want to make it to the session on Empirical Study of Legal Education and the Legal Profession. And, of course, the conference is a fantastic opportunity to connect with other deans and professors across the country. We compare notes and ideas. It’s not uncommon for collaborations to develop during this conference. Really energizing stuff.
Oh, and of course, I’ll make time tonight to respond to email. There are always plenty of those.

Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018

It’s great to be back in the college this morning after our new year’s holiday. I’m energized for a fantastic 2018! It’s still quiet in the hallways, as the students don’t start classes again for another week, and many faculty are working on their research and wrapping up grading from home. This has allowed me to catch up on my mail, and meet with some of my leadership team. We each set goals for the new year and brain storm on strategies to begin the year with a positive momentum.

In addition to these meetings, I’m writing thank you notes to gracious end-of-year donors and preparing for my trip to San Diego, which begins tomorrow, for the yearly meeting of law professors and law deans. My friend, Paul Marcus, a law professor at William & Mary, is the outgoing president of the organization (the Association of American Law Schools) that hosts the meeting. I’ll be able to visit with Paul and many colleagues from across the country while I’m there.  It’s a long way to travel for a meeting, but it’s always an information-packed conference. And, this year, we are co-hosting a women’s leadership in academia event with the University of Georgia on Jan. 5.