Specialist on values to lead BC law school

Hopes to expand student worldview

By Tracy Jan
Globe Staff / April 1, 2011

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Notre Dame law professor Vincent Rougeau, a specialist on the role of moral and religious values in lawmaking and public policy, will be the next dean of Boston College Law School and its first African-American leader, the university announced yesterday.

In an interview, Rougeau said that he plans to bring more diversity to the student body and faculty, with increased recruitment of students from the fast-growing, heavily Hispanic Southwest.

Rougeau also hopes to expand opportunities for students to enter careers focusing on public-interest law, as well as to increase their global experiences by recruiting more international students; adding programs to study and work abroad; and changing the law curriculum.

“We’re educating professionals who see their role as part of a broader commitment to their communities,’’ he said, “not as the solo actor, adversarial lawyer, but as a lawyer who knows and appreciates the power of the profession to do good and to do ill.’’

Rougeau, 47, will assume the post in July, replacing John Garvey, who left last summer after 11 years to become the president of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

Rougeau will focus on increasing diversity of students and faculty at BC Law because it is important for law students to learn to engage people from different backgrounds in a respectful and meaningful way. Currently, 18 percent of the faculty and 26 percent of the students at the Jesuit law school are black, Hispanic, Asian, or Native American.

“It’s essential to create the kind of community on campus that reflects the world in which we live and the communities we are a part of, especially for lawyers,’’ said Rougeau, who is Catholic. “You often find in higher education that people who have similar social, economic, cultural, and educational backgrounds often start to see issues in ways that may not reflect the experiences of people from other backgrounds.’’

Rougeau has taught contracts, real estate law, and Catholic social thought at Notre Dame for 12 years. His academic research focuses on global migration and multicultural citizenship, with an emphasis on the challenges posed by religious pluralism. Rougeau, who practiced bank regulatory law in Washington, D.C., for more than two years, is an advocate of consumer protection against predatory business. His areas of scholarship resonate with Boston College, said Bert Garza, the provost.

“He understands the challenges the law profession is likely to face in the next 15 to 20 years,’’ Garza said. “The whole framework of legal education is being thought through. New law graduates have to be prepared to understand the global nature of the world.’’

The son of an attorney and a dietician, Rougeau said he envisioned a career in diplomacy, having grown up in Cambridge, New York, and Washington. He earned his bachelor’s degree in international relations from Brown University and his law degree from Harvard.

Tracy Jan can be reached at