An expert in administrative law who joined Penn Law as a professor in 1985, Fitts has been dean since 2000. During that time, he transformed the Law School’s curriculum, promoting an interdisciplinary approach to legal education while encouraging a collaborative environment central to the School’s pedagogical mission.
“Mike Fitts is an inspired choice to become the next president of Tulane University,” Penn President Amy Gutmann said. “He is a skilled and strategic leader, whose vision has propelled Penn Law to even greater heights among the pre-eminent law schools in our nation. Under his direction, Penn Law has become an unrivaled leader in cross-disciplinary legal education, which is an essential feature of first-rate education in today’s increasingly complex global society.”
During his 14-year tenure, Fitts grew the size of the standing faculty by 40 percent, while quadrupling the number of cross-cutting academic institutes at Penn Law. He oversaw the creation and expansion of innovative programs to attract top student talent, doubling the availability of financial assistance for students, leading to a 78 percent increase in applications for admission. Fitts led the Bold Ambitions fundraising campaign for the law school, exceeding the campaign goal and raising more than $200 million.
“It’s been my honor and privilege to have spent my academic career devoted to this wonderful institution,” Fitts said. “Working with the talented students, faculty and staff at Penn has truly been a joy. Together we’ve achieved so much that has enriched the intellectual climate at the Law School and the University more broadly. These relationships will last a lifetime.”
Fitts oversaw the creation of cross-disciplinary programs that include 35 degree and certificate programs offered in partnership with schools and graduate departments across the University, as well as new interdisciplinary courses and clinical programs within the law curriculum. Nearly two-thirds of the current class will graduate with joint degrees or certificates.
He further demonstrated the Law School’s commitment to public interest with a multi-million dollar increase in funding for students working in public interest and government positions, an expansion of the Toll Public Interest Scholars and Public Interest Fellows programs and the introduction of Public Interest Week. Moreover, he expanded Penn Law’s generous loan forgiveness program, ensuring that graduates pursuing careers in service can have significant student loan burdens eliminated.
He has supported significant growth in international programming, establishing institutional study abroad and research partnerships throughout Asia and Europe, while overseeing the creation of the Global Research Seminar, International Human Rights Fellowship program and Global Forum.
Fitts has also overseen the introduction of the Center on Professionalism, a program designed to educate students in the full set of executive skills required by top employers in the changing marketplace.
Fitts spearheaded the physical transformation of the Law School, culminating in the new Golkin Hall project, a $33.5 million, 40,000-square-foot building that was completed in January 2012. The project capped a multi-year top-to-bottom renovation of Penn Law’s interconnected buildings.
Fitts has also been a great citizen of the University of Pennsylvania, modeling the collaboration across schools that has spurred Penn to the heights of American universities in integrating knowledge across disciplines and demonstrating the impact of knowledge in our nation and across the globe.