Patrick Borchers, one of four dean candidates for the St. Thomas School of Law, said he would be loyal to the university’s mission and has high hopes for the school in his public presentation Monday, Sept. 10, in Schulze Hall Auditorium on the St. Thomas Minneapolis campus.
“I think the main goal for the law school is staying true to the mission and to try to push its reputation forward,” Borchers said.
The public presentation was part of a two-day interview process that each dean candidate will complete separately during September.
Tom Berg, a co-chair of the School of Law Dean Search Committee, said the panel is looking for specific qualifications in each candidate.
“We’re looking for somebody who can combine excitement in our mission with a practical sense of how it can meet the big challenges that a legal education faces today,” Berg said.
Borchers earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame and graduated in the top 2 percent of his class at the University of California-Davis with a doctorate in law.
In his presentation, Borchers mentioned some of his career highlights. He is currently a law professor, vice president for academic affairs, and former dean of the Creighton University School of Law. Under his leadership, Borchers said Creighton law school application rates doubled, the average undergraduate GPA improved, and minority applicant numbers and LSAT scores increased.
In his tenure as Creighton’s School of Law dean, Borchers produced 60 major articles and seven books. Donor participation increased from $700,000 to $3.3 million during his term as dean.
As part of Creighton’s Bar Examination Passage Program, Borchers was involved in achieving a school-wide 90 percent passage rate.
Borchers said he admires St. Thomas students’ strong sense of faith. He also said he appreciates that the law school is building itself.
“It’s one of the nicest law school buildings I’ve ever seen,” Borchers said.
However, Borchers said he does foresee some challenges including: a difficult macroeconomic environment, a crowded local and regional market for graduates, and leadership uncertainty at St. Thomas as a whole.
“I think the biggest handicap that the law school has right now is that it’s new and reputations lag 10 years behind the reality,” Borchers said. “The big challenge is getting that reputation to catch up to that reality.”
Third-year law student Robyn Brown said when Borchers spoke about the school’s mission, he “hit the nail on the head.”
“We need the reputation of the law school to be strong so that we can find jobs. The quality of our degree has more value as the reputation of the university increases,” Brown said. “Staying true to the mission is very key because it’s why many of us chose the university.”
Joseph Grodahl, a St. Thomas School of Law student, said he thinks that Borchers conveyed approachability and that it will help him fit into the role as St. Thomas’ dean.
“I think that’s something neat about the law school at St. Thomas because the faculty is approachable,” Grodahl said. “I mean, I’ve hung out in the living rooms of faculty on different occasions. He struck me as someone who would fit well into that category.”
Brown said she admired Borchers’ view on student-administrator interaction.
“I really appreciated how he was talking about how he missed the interaction with students when he was a dean previously. He wants to interact with students, and I think that’s good because that’s something our community highly values,” Brown said.
Berg said that Borchers’ reputation makes him a strong candidate for the law school dean position.
“We brought him in as a candidate because he has a strong record of success as a dean at Creighton Catholic Law School and a lot of respect in the legal profession,” Berg said.
TommieMedia will be covering all candidates’ public speeches equally and fairly during the election period.
Kayla Bengtson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.