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University of Pittsburgh School of Law’s new dean hopes to build relationships between disciplines

April 1, 2018
Amy J. Wildermuth

The University of Pittsburgh has selected a former Supreme Court law clerk and current associate vice president at the University of Utah as the new dean for Pitt’s School of Law, officials announced Tuesday.

Amy J. Wildermuth, associate vice president for faculty and academic affairs at the Salt Lake City-based university, will replace outgoing dean William M. Carter Jr., who announced his plans to return to teaching full-time by June.

Wildermuth, 45, said she hadn’t been aware of the opening until someone — she still doesn’t know who — nominated her in Pitt’s search for potential deans. She had family through marriage in the area who encouraged her to look, and the city and school appeal to her, she said.

“I became increasingly impressed with both the university and the law school. They’re both on an upward trajectory that’s really impressive,” she said.

Wildermuth had previously served as the University of Utah’s chief sustainability officer and a professor in that university’s law school focused on areas of civil procedure, administrative law, environmental law and the Supreme Court. Before joining the law faculty in Utah, she had been a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

At Utah, she said she worked extensively on fostering cooperation among the law school and other departments so that doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs, attorneys and law students could work together on real-world problems, research and practical experience. She said she hopes to bring a similar approach to Pitt.

“A law school can be pretty isolated; they’re not always thinking across departments,” Wildermuth said. “We need to think about how we put together teams of people to work on big questions and big projects... to get people together in a room and say, ‘you’re an engineer, you’re a doctor, you’re a lawyer; how do we communicate?’”

She cited Pitt’s Innovation Practice Institute, which focuses on law’s connection to technology, art and design, as an example of such a cross-disciplinary program.

“I am confident that she understands the opportunities to move the school forward by both harnessing traditional strengths and building upon the assets of the larger university,” wrote Pitt Senior Vice Chancellor Patricia Beeson in the announcement of Wildermuth’s hiring. “She is unequivocally committed to enhancing legal education and will draw upon her administrative, research and practice experience to lead Pitt Law in its next phase of excellence.”

Wildermuth’s first day will be July 1. She said she would wrap up her responsibilities in Utah and move to Pittsburgh — preferably within walking distance of the university — by June, but with her wife, Gwen Foster, teaching sixth grade and their 6-year-old daughter in school, the family was triply tied to the end of the school year.

Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6660, msantoni@tribweb.com or via Twitter @msantoni.

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