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Dean Camille Nelson

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa William S. Richardson School of Law welcomed Camille Nelson as the first female to serve as its dean.

Beginning her first semester amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Nelson has immediate goals to ensure the UH law school community is prepared. “Our students, staff and faculty are the heart of everything we do—we must continue to prioritize their health and well-being,” she said.

At the same time, Nelson plans to continue focusing on student support and preparedness, curricular development and innovation, the scholarly work of the UH law school’s exemplary faculty, and ensuring that programs provide opportunities for students.

She has been a trailblazer as an attorney, and in academia. Previously serving as Dean of the American University Washington College of Law, Nelson envisions the possibilities for the future of UH’s law school.

“As a woman law dean of color, I am particularly interested in how we might envision a world where Richardson lawyers are on the vanguard, ready to innovate in furtherance of access, inclusion and equity,” said Nelson. “I am mindful of the areas where women, and those who are often considered non-traditional lawyers, are underrepresented in legal practice and want to make sure that we are opening up space for our students in every legal domain.”

Nelson succeeds Avi Soifer, who was the UH law school dean for 17 years. “I recognize the success of the law school and celebrate what has been developed and grown over the years,” Nelson said.

This includes a renowned Environmental Law Program, the Ka Huli Au Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law, the Pacific Asian Legal Studies program and law clinics that continue to assist the underserved during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These cohorts of students are the most resilient, determined and dedicated group of future lawyers I have encountered,” said Nelson. “I think we need precisely these types of creative and determined lawyers to lead us forward to make sure that our future is a brighter one.”

“There is no place on earth like this school.”

“There is no place on earth like this school,” Nelson added. “The Richardson ʻohana is wonderful and welcoming, the commitment to a life of purpose is real, the justice-seeking is core to the fabric of the institution. I want to lead with my head and my heart and to be at a place that has heart is important to me. I feel that there is a wonderful alignment here and that we can do great things together in support of our students and Richardson ʻohana.