MAYS: No, no, it’s a PSL conversation. In
fact, the faculty had a brainstorming session last semester. And we have a faculty
meeting this Friday where we’re going to
have part two of that discussion. Now
we’re going to rank the different ideas that
came out of that session. And then we’ll
begin to see what we need to do in order
to move in the direction that we decide.
We give our students that extra oomph— practice-readiness, and the chance to serve the underserved.
AZAT: Have there been any misgivings
among faculty or students that they didn’t
sign on to a school with a focus they might
MAYS: We haven’t heard that. I think that
one of the things that has happened, and
rightfully so, is that pretty much up until
now our focus has been on receiving full
accreditation, and so that’s where our time
and energies were devoted. We didn’t really have the luxury, so to speak, of sitting
back and thinking more globally in terms
of, or vision for, ourselves. What it is that
we want to be? It’s a very exciting time for
AZAT: What is the region in your mind?
MAYS: Well, definitely beyond Arizona.
AZAT: And how did you come to be here
in Arizona? Had you visited before? What
took you to PSL?
AZAT: Well, I had served as an associate
dean at Capital Law School in Columbus,
Ohio, for five years, and I had a strong
desire to be a dean. As an associate dean,
you learn a lot about deaning. You learn
the inner workings of the law school. So
I’ve actually been in legal education for
20 years as a faculty member. I’ve had various administrative posts and had the desire
to be able to come to a place that had a
grand vision for what it wanted to be. So I
attended a conference that was called
Diversity in Deanship.
AZAT: What is that?
MAYS: It is for people of color who were
interested in becoming deans, and there
was a representative there from PSL at that
conference. We met and went to dinner. I
was very attracted to the mission and the
vision and the values and the goals of PSL,
and as a result I applied. And I was pleased
to be selected.
AZAT: You went to Harvard Law School.
Did you enjoy that experience?
MAYS: I did. I had graduated undergrad
and was out for eight years before I went to
law school, so I did not come directly from
my undergraduate education. And when I
went to law school I was a single parent; I
had a 4-year-old son.
I had tons of family support. My parents
were instrumental in providing assistance
to me, and so going to law school, I definitely suffered from culture shock because
I had attended a very small, predominantly
black, undergraduate institution in
Wilberforce, Ohio, whose resident population is about 800. And then I went to the
big city of Boston, and our first-year class
had more students than the town where I
had grown up.
AZAT: Were there other challenges?
MAYS: Yes. The time when I was there,
which was in the early ’80s, was also a time
of a bit of racial unrest in Boston, and that
was a challenge.
However, what I loved about law
school was the intellectual exchange. I
loved the ability to go to school with people who were from extremely diverse backgrounds. I loved the opportunity to engage
with visitors to the campus. And so it was
AZAT: It sounds like a positive experience.
MAYS: The one thing that I disliked about
the Harvard Law School—I shouldn’t say
disliked—but the one thing that I definite-
ly wish we had done more of with the
Harvard Law School education was that
it’s very, very theoretical-based, or at least it
was back then. So it didn’t have a lot of the
practical application. They left that to us to
be able to do on our own, and that’s what
I absolutely love about PSL.