UConn Law School’s Nelson Reflects on a Year of Challenge and Growth

Diversity and social justice are touchstones even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic

UConn School of Law Dean Eboni S. Nelson

UConn School of Law Dean Eboni S. Nelson (UConn Photo).

Eboni S. Nelson joined UConn as dean of the School of Law on July 31, 2020. After leading the law school through a global pandemic and an entire academic year of virtual learning, she spoke with UConn Today about the challenges and rewards of her first 12 months.


What were your biggest accomplishments in your first year as dean?

Navigating the law school through the pandemic has been a consuming challenge. However, with the assistance and support of dedicated students, staff, faculty, and alumni, the law school continued to thrive and to advance our work on several fronts. We established the Constance Belton Green Diversity Fund, which is the first fund at the law school to broadly support diversity, racial, and social justice initiatives including scholarships, programming, and faculty support. We expanded our LLM programs to include a new LLM in Governance, Risk Management, and Compliance that will enhance lawyers’ knowledge, expertise, and professional opportunities in these important and growing areas. We were also very successful in inspiring philanthropy that enables us to pursue bold initiatives to achieve our institutional goals.

In what ways did the pandemic change this year for you? What did you learn?

Perhaps one of the most significant ways the pandemic altered this year for me was the inability to meet and get to know many of the law school’s staff, faculty, and students in person. The same was true for meeting our alumni and members of the legal and broader community. Though this year was a challenge, it taught me how incredibly fortunate I am to be part of a vibrant, committed UConn Law community that is not confined to its physical campus. I learned what a unique, welcoming, and supportive community we have, one in which we can build relationships and strengthen connections despite being physically distant. I also learned that all of us are dedicated to adapting as necessary to support our amazing students and one another as we seek to fulfill our mission of furthering justice throughout our country and beyond.

What are you most looking forward to this fall when the campus returns to in-person learning?

When we return to campus, I am most looking forward to engaging in informal conversations with members of our law school community to learn more about them, their interests, and their goals. I also look forward to hearing their ideas and suggestions for ways to improve the law school and everyone’s experiences. I’m also eager to welcome alumni and friends of the law school back to our beautiful campus for events and programs that bring our community together, advance our knowledge, and broaden our perspectives.

What are your priorities and/or goals for this coming academic year?

This academic year we will celebrate the law school’s centennial, which will be a wonderful opportunity to reflect upon the law school’s great legacy while looking forward to its bright future.  To that end, we will engage in a strategic planning process to devise a vision for the law school’s future as well as goals and strategies by which to realize it. As we adhere to our values of accessibility and affordability, we will build upon our legacy of preparing students to positively impact the profession and communities in which they serve while advancing equity and justice for all.

What has been your favorite part of living in Connecticut?

My favorite part of living in Connecticut has been the warm and hospitable welcome everyone has shown me and my family over the past year. Everyone we’ve encountered has been incredibly friendly, helpful and supportive, which has made Connecticut quickly feel like home. We love living in the beautiful, multicultural West End neighborhood of Hartford and look forward to exploring other areas of the state and region as we emerge from the pandemic.