Monday, September 28, 2020

The University of Iowa College of Law reinstated the Iowa Law Faculty Fellowship program this year, welcoming Professor Phoebe Jean-Pierre as Visiting Assistant Professor at the College of Law for the 2020-2021 academic year. The Faculty Fellowship is designed to provide promising legal scholars and teachers with research opportunities, faculty mentoring, and career development.

Dean Kevin Washburn said, “When I arrived at Iowa, I knew it was critical to restart the faculty fellows program. I am grateful to the recruiting committee for landing such an outstanding hire in Professor Jean-Pierre.”

“I am truly honored to be joining the faculty at the College of Law as a Visiting Assistant Professor,” said Professor Jean-Pierre. “This fellowship presents the opportunity for scholars with an interdisciplinary background to pursue their research and to actively participate as a member of the College of Law. Further, it allows diverse voices and people of color to openly participate within the field of legal academia.”

The College of Law has long held a deep commitment to increasing diversity in the legal profession, and the Iowa Law Faculty Fellowship is a mechanism to do just that. The College of Law’s strengths—including a focus on law teaching, an exceptionally comprehensive law library, and a collaborative atmosphere—provide the ideal environment for a fellowship program that concentrates on teaching, scholarship, and diversity, equity, and inclusion at the college and university.

“As we prepare to recruit our second faculty fellow, I am pleased at the early progress our community is making to take affirmative actions to improve on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion [DEI] at Iowa Law,” said Dean Washburn.

“While Professor Jean-Pierre was hired before the formation of the Iowa Law Anti-Racism Committee [ILARAC], their recommendations make it clear that this program needs to continue. And it will.

Other early accomplishments include the hiring of Neda Barrett as Iowa Law’s first Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the formation of an alumni steering committee to guide the formation of an Alumni Council focused on improving and advancing DEI efforts at the College of Law. I only received ILARAC’s recommendations on August 21, so we are off to a strong start. There’s a long way to go and I am eager to see the changes and improvements we can make to our community for the long-term.”

Professor Jean-Pierre might be new to Iowa City, but she is no stranger to the classroom. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with dual majors in World History and Communications, as well as a minor in Art History, she found herself at Northwestern University pursuing a JD and PhD in Media, Technology, & Society with a focus on Health Communication.

“The interdisciplinary nature of the Iowa Law Faculty Fellowship is initially what drew me to this opportunity,” said Professor Jean-Pierre. “This program allows me to build upon my research started at Northwestern—exploring the intersection of health, law, and communication—and to connect not only with the College of Law, but other academic departments at Iowa. I am excited to bring my diverse academic background as I continue to pursue my research and work alongside some of the eminent scholars in the legal field.”

Despite the unique circumstances COVID-19 has presented to higher education, Professor Jean-Pierre is excited to join the College of Law.

“2020 has been quite a challenging year on so many fronts, particularly for African Americans, Black communities, and minority populations,” Professor Jean-Pierre said. “The drastic effects of this pandemic (particularly on the health of vulnerable and minority communities), along with the troubling and inconsistent communication during this time of emergency are reflective of my work. My research explores health communication, health and disparities, and difficult conversations within the health and healthcare space. I intend to use my time at Iowa to further this scholarship as I examine the ways in which we talk about health, the laws in place, and who this affects. I look forward to participating in this fellowship and academic life at the College of Law.”

After the Spring 2020 semester was upended due to the global pandemic, the College of Law has transitioned to the new normal, enabling it to convene, among other things, a fully virtual ILARAC committee that met all summer in the wake of the George Floyd killing and subsequent national reckoning with race. After the committee submitted its final report in August, they disbanded and charged the College of Law to carry out its recommendations with the guidance of the DEI committee and Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Neda Barrett.

The legal profession is often said to move slowly, but with the reinstatement of the Faculty Diversity Fellowship Program and the introduction of Professor Jean-Pierre the College of Law will continue to push the legal profession in a more inclusive, diverse, and interdisciplinary direction.

“I am excited that the College of Iowa reintroduced the Iowa Law Faculty Fellowship. This program is a great opportunity for me to continue my interdisciplinary research and connect with scholars across the university at large,” said Professor Jean-Pierre. “In particular, I look forward to working with the faculty and legal scholars within the College of Law. I recognize that this fellowship extends beyond me and opens the doors of legal academia to minority and marginalized voices. I am hopeful for the possibilities and opportunities that the Iowa Law Faculty Fellowship will foster for future fellows.” 


Payten Little is the Assistant to Social Media for the College of Law in External Relations. She majors in Journalism and Creative writing and will graduate from the University of Iowa in December 2020. When she’s not drafting social content or editing web content, she’s writing articles for HerCampus at Iowa.