Meet the Deans

Our College

The University of Tennessee College of Law, located in Knoxville, enjoys a rich tradition of providing sound legal education and boasts the longest-running legal clinical program in the country.

Our College

The University of Tennessee College of Law, located in Knoxville, enjoys a rich tradition of providing sound legal education and boasts the longest-running legal clinical program in the country.

Meet the Deans

Dean of the College of Law

Dean Melanie D. Wilson, the Lindsay Young Distinguished Professor of Law, began her tenure as dean of the College of Law in 2015.

Wilson earned a JD (magna cum laude and Order of the Coif) from the University of Georgia School of Law. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in business, also from the University of Georgia.

She previously served as professor of law, associate dean for academic affairs, and director of diversity and inclusion at the University of Kansas School of Law.

Before entering academia, Wilson clerked for a federal district court judge and enjoyed thirteen years of law practice in both the private and public sectors, including six years as an assistant United States attorney and four years as an assistant attorney general for the state of Georgia.

As an academic, Wilson enjoys both teaching and scholarship. She received the Howard M. and Susan Immel Award for Teaching Excellence at the University of Kansas School of Law in 2011 and was named Outstanding Woman Educator of 2015 by the University of Kansas. She also co-authored three books on criminal procedure and has published more than a dozen articles and essays addressing prosecutorial ethics and the Fourth and Sixth Amendments.

Learn more about the College of Law Dean’s Office initiatives.

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs

Paula Schaefer was named an associate dean in January 2019. She joined the faculty of the University of Tennessee College of Law in 2008. As a lawyer, she practiced in the area of business litigation at Shook, Hardy & Bacon and Bryan Cave in Kansas City, Missouri. After law school, she clerked for Ann K. Covington, the first woman to serve on the Missouri Supreme Court.

She teaches professional responsibility, civil procedure, E-discovery, pre-trial litigation, and behavioral legal ethics. She coordinates and co-teaches the Semester in Residence in Nashville. She is interested in developing innovative teaching methods to prepare students for practice. Schaefer teaches an experiential section of civil procedure that puts students in the role of lawyer to complete various projects throughout their first semester of law school. She has developed a simulation that generates thousands of documents that her students use to conduct E-discovery in her pre-trial litigation and E-discovery classes.

Schaefer’s scholarship considers issues of attorney ethics, fiduciary duty, and behavioral legal ethics. Her articles have been published in Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, Maryland Law Review, Florida State University Law Review, and other journals. She is the author of Developing Professional Skills: Civil Procedure, the co-author ofDeveloping Professional Skills: Professional Responsibility, and the co-author of Professional Responsibility in the Life of the Lawyer. 

She also writes in the area of legal education reform, with a focus on professionalism issues. She was one of many authors of the book Building on Best Practices: Transforming Legal Education in a Changing World.


Associate Dean for Faculty Development

Michael J. Higdon became an associate dean in the College of Law in August 2019. He teaches and writes in the areas of constitutional law; legal process; sexuality, gender and the law; and family law.

He served for five years as a faculty member at the Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas before joining the faculty in Knoxville.

He received his J.D. in 2001 from the University of Nevada, graduating first in his class and receiving the James E. Rogers Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement.  

Associate Dean for Library & Technology Services

Scott Childs joined the UT College of Law in 2011 from the University of North Carolina School of Law where he was the deputy director at the Katherine R. Everett Law Library and a Clinical Professor of Law since 2007. At UNC Law, he served as assistant director for public services since 2001, managing law library public services and coordinating the advanced legal research courses.

Prior to joining the staff at UNC Law, Childs served as head of reference at the Paul M. Hebert Law Center at the Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, and was both a reference librarian and headed the collection development at  Cornell Law School.

Professor Childs began his legal career with the Legal Services Corporation of Alabama, serving as a Staff Attorney and then as a Senior Staff Attorney until 1995.

Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, Director of Diversity & Inclusion

Maria Saez Tatman earned a JD from the University of Illinois College of Law. She also holds a master’s degree in social work and a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and zoology, both from the University of Michigan.

Prior to joining the College of Law, she served as the associate dean of student services & advising at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City and the assistant sean of career planning and professional development at the University of Oregon School of Law.  Her legal career focused on management-side labor and employment law, health law and medical malpractice.

Saez Tatman serves on committees with the Association of American Law Schools and the National Association of Law Student Affairs Professionals. She also serves on the Board of Trustees for LeaderShape, Inc., a not-for-profit organization that partners with colleges and universities to provide leadership learning experiences for people to explore their values, what they care about and how they can contribute to change in the world.

Assistant Dean for Finance, Administration, and Operations

Teresa Peterson joined the College of Law in 1983 and oversees the College of Law business office.

Prior to her work with the College of Law, she worked in the accounting office at Lakeshore Mental Health Institute.

A native of Knoxville, Peterson holds a bachelor’s degree in bachelor of science in business administration with a concentration in human resource management from the University of Tennessee. She has served on several committees of the American Bar Association and the Association of American Law Schools.