DePaul University has selected a nationally recognized leader in legal education as dean for the College of Law. Jennifer Rosato Perea, an accomplished scholar in family law, bioethics and civil procedure, will join DePaul July 1.
When Rosato Perea became dean of the Northern Illinois University College of Law in July 2009, she also became the first Italian-American female dean of any law school in the country. It should be mentioned that she also treasures her Latino ancestry on her mother’s side.
Rosato Perea came to NIU from Drexel University in Philadelphia, where she was part of the administrative team that created and launched the Earle Mack School of Law. An ambitious endeavor, but with 20-20 hindsight, she was obviously up to.
She was acting dean during the school’s first year of operation (July 2006 to April 2007) and a consultant on the project for a year prior. The experience she gained in those positions will continue to be useful in her role in the top spot at NIU Law.
The DePaul University search committee recognized that Rosato Perea’s experience made her stand out, even among an excellent field of candidates culled from a national search.
The appointment to dean marks a significant transition for Rosato Perea in several ways. For starters, she has moved to the Midwest from the East Coast, where she has spent most of her life and career. She grew up in Bethlehem, Pa., in a family of mixed ethnicity. Her father was Italian; her mother, Nicaraguan. Rosato Perea attended public schools in the 1970s, and like many of her era, she became the first generation in the family to go to college and was accepted at Cornell University. The experience of going to a big school provided her with a new perspective.
Rosato Perea earned a bachelor’s degree at Cornell in social work and, as a senior completing her practicum, worked as a caseworker in child protective services in Elmira, N.Y. It was there that her experiences dealing with children in foster care awakened her interest in law, particularly family law.
Rosato Perea decided to enter the University of Pennsylvania Law School and threw herself wholeheartedly into the experience. She became editor-in-chief of the school’s Journal of International Business Law. She entered moot court competitions and won, even arguing before former U.S. Supreme Court Justice O’Connor as a third-year law student. She wanted to become involved in as many activities as she could handle and interact with as many of her peers and professors as possible.
“I loved law school. I saw it as an opportunity to really challenge myself and get a great education,” she said. “It’s a chance to talk to smart people, to test your ideas and get to know your professors. I ate it up.”
For Rosato Perea, the passion for family law issues continued to drive her career and scholarship. After she left law school, she clerked for a federal court judge for two years, spent a year as an associate in a Philadelphia law firm, then turned to teaching and writing on diverse legal issues. She was an instructor at Villanova University School of Law before moving to Brooklyn Law School in 1992, where she taught courses including civil procedure, legal ethics, bioethics and public policy, and family law.
While at Brooklyn Law School, Rosato Perea was associate dean for student affairs and also co-director of the Center for Health, Science and Public Policy as well as professor of law.
In 2006, Rosato Perea moved to Drexel University, and was hired as a professor and senior associate dean for student affairs for the new College of Law. She had been working as a consultant to Drexel, helping the university create the law school from the ground up, including hiring faculty and curriculum development. Then, as acting dean and associate dean, she had the opportunity to launch a law school to educate lawyers for the 21st century. Part of that vision was to build a law community that championed diversity.
Under her leadership at Northern Illinois University, the law school earned national recognition for diversity, value and public service. Rosato Perea doubled opportunities for experiential learning, including launching a clinic in health advocacy and dramatically expanding student externship opportunities, especially in Chicago. She led the development of a mentoring program for first-year students, pairing almost the entire class with alumni and other lawyers, and initiated a first-year professionalism program required for graduation. She also collaborated with areas across the university to create accelerated degree programs, allowing students to earn a bachelor’s and law degree in six years or less.
At DePaul, Rosato Perea will lead a law school recognized for its world-renowned faculty and innovative academic programs with creative approaches to professional skills training. In 2014, the National Law Journal placed DePaul’s College of Law first for Best LLM Program and Best Law School Clinical Program in Chicago. DePaul has had the largest number of graduates on the Illinois Super Lawyers list for the past six years.
The Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians) founded DePaul University in 1898. The university follows the ideals of St. Vincent de Paul, a 17th century French priest for whom the school is named. With nearly 24,000 students and about 300 academic programs, DePaul is the largest Catholic university in the United States and the largest private, nonprofit university in the Midwest.
DePaul’s tradition of providing a quality education to students from a broad range of backgrounds, with particular attention to first-generation students, has resulted in one of the nation’s most diverse student bodies. More information is online at depaul.edu.
What also keeps her young is maintaining a healthy lifestyle with plenty of exercise. Rosato Perea is a runner and often has often participated in 5K races. She also travels a lot: returning frequently to Philadelphia to be with her twelve-year-old daughter, attending conferences, and visiting alumni.
Dean Rosato Perea is very happy with her career choice and is looking forward to assuming the reigns at DePaul University College of Law.