Interim dean chosen to lead KU Law School

Kansas University named Stephen W. Mazza, interim dean of the School of Law, to the permanent post on Friday.

Mazza said he was honored to accept the position. He has been a member of the KU law faculty since 1998. He has practiced tax law in a large Atlanta firm, and has served as an acting professor at New York University.

He said though challenges exist for legal education, with groups questioning law school’s methods and what they teach, he saw it as an opportunity to improve the school.

“The ultimate goal is to improve the quality and reputation of the law school,” Mazza said. “We want to have a national reputation for being the best law school in the region.”

He said that would take increased alumni support and support from university administration, which has already been strong, he said.

Mazza’s selection ends a search that took a little longer than expected, after a first attempt to find a dean failed.

KU Provost Jeff Vitter said after the first search, he had offered the job to another candidate — Michael Moffitt — who instead opted to become dean at the University of Oregon.

He was serving as Oregon’s interim dean at the time, and decided to stay in Oregon for several reasons, Vitter said, including that his wife held a high-ranking position in Oregon’s athletics department.

After the first search didn’t yield any viable candidates, Vitter said several alumni asked him to hire Mazza, who wasn’t a candidate in the first search.

Mazza said at the time the search began after Gail Agrawal left for the University of Iowa in January 2010, he hadn’t decided if he wanted the full-time job.

“By the time I decided I did, the process was so far along, I felt that putting my name in would be disruptive,” Mazza said on Friday afternoon.

Vitter said after the first candidate chose to stay at Oregon, he opted to reopen a national search instead of hiring Mazza at that time.

During the second search, two other law schools — the University of South Carolina and St. Louis University — expressed interest in Mazza as part of their searches for new deans, Vitter said.

Mazza will make $250,000 per year in his new position.

He said he was “quite happy” with the way the process ended, and said the search committee returned several strong candidates.

Vitter praised Mazza’s listening abilities and his ability to work with the entire law school during a recent overhaul of the school’s first-year curriculum.

“That’s going to be important as the school moves forward,” Vitter said of Mazza’s ability to work well with other people.