Minnesota Law

Summer 2023
Raising the Bar

Alumni Q & A: Nancy Staudt ‘89

Photo courtesy of the RAND Corporation

University of Minnesota Law School alum Nancy Staudt ’89 recently spoke with Minnesota Law about her deep love of working with students, her commitment to lifelong learning, the importance of DEI efforts, and what it means to her to be a leader. 

Nancy Staudt ’89 is the Frank and Marcia Carlucci Dean of the Pardee RAND Graduate School, and Vice President of Innovation at the RAND Corporation. The school in Santa Monica is based at the RAND Corporation. It is an independent public policy research organization, with 1,000 researchers working in offices across the world and serving as faculty and mentors for the students, Staudt said.

Staudt was the dean of the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, Missouri, from May 2014 to October 2021, and was a faculty member there from 2000 to 2006. She also taught at the University of Southern California, Northwestern University, and the University of Buffalo School of Law, as well as other institutions as a visiting professor.

Her curriculum vitae and her conversation both illustrate her deep love of learning and of students.

You have a Ph.D. as well as a J.D. Were you always headed for academia?

I love the practice of law but also really love writing. My favorite memory from law school was my time on the Law Review. Moving from the law firm to academic allowed me to focus on my true passion. And my Ph.D. in quantitative public policy allowed me to conduct empirical studies in the context of tax law.


What do you think are the biggest challenge/opportunities for law schools today?

 Law students, and perhaps students generally, very much want to learn but also change the world. They want to have an impact. It’s really exciting. 

Law school provides an excellent education. Students learn to think critically, respond to hard questions “on the spot,” and engage with the world’s most challenging problems in every legal context. Those thinking skills are incredibly important when you go out into the world. 

Legal education writ large offers the next generation of leaders an opportunity to develop the skills to change the world. It doesn’t matter where they go after school, they can still have an impact on how we practice law.

Teaching the next generation of leaders is exciting but also challenging. As educators, we need to make our classes, lessons, and experiential learning opportunities relevant. And we need to recognize the amazing impact of emerging technology, such as Chat GPT, on the legal world.  (Ed. note: Pardee RAND offers a Ph.D. program in public policy, including a variety of topics on the legal system. Its web site states, “From work on the impacts of drug policies like marijuana legalization, to analysis of the ways that technology can impact policing and public safety — among many other topics — Pardee RAND students and faculty have a strong presence in the policy debate.”) 

How did law school prepare you for a leadership role? 

The faculty was amazing. The training was amazing. I still remember how my law review editor challenged me and made me a better writer and editor. It positioned me to get a clerkship on the 9th Circuit. It was the start of my learning experience. 

The University of Minnesota Law School is about to embark on a search for a new permanent law school dean.  What qualities do you think are most crucial for a law dean to have? 

I believe the dean need should have leadership qualities including listening skills, communication skills, the ability to engage and inspire diverse communities, and so forth. The dean, of course, cannot lead and succeed alone—they’ll need a great team. My view is that the school is probably not looking for a person who has “everything,” but rather a person who can inspire a team to work hard and stay on mission.


You mentioned diverse communities. What role does diversity, equality and inclusion play in your view of mission?

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are among my top priorities as a leader, and I believe DEI is key to an institution’s success. Policies and laws should reflect the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and we should all be dedicated to promoting those values throughout the educational and professional environments in which we work. 

In my view, promoting DEI is important from an ethical perspective but also for achieving excellence. Study after study show that diverse groups, teams, and organizations have better decision-making processes and produce better results on important metrics. 

Indeed, many scholars have identified the “diversity bonus” that organizations obtain when tapping into the diverse approaches that people use to address complex issues and ideas. For all these reasons, I am an advocate for DEI.


What advice would you offer to law students today?

To learn skills, have fun, and follow your dreams.