When Johanna Bond arrived on campus as the new dean of Rutgers Law School on July 1, she brought with her extensive teaching experience, hands-on administrative expertise, a passion for human rights, and sharp clinical skills. But equally important tools in her kit include an extraordinary appreciation for Rutgers Law, a contagious excitement to reinvigorate the school’s identity as the People’s Electric Law School, and a passion for building on the strength and unique culture of each campus while charting a path forward for the school as a whole.
A Multifaceted Career Path
Bond began her legal career as a student at the University of Minnesota Law School. Initially attracted to the school’s well-developed human rights program, Bond benefitted from some extraordinary opportunities as a student, including working with the International Women’s Rights Action Watch. As part of this program, she was able to travel to Beijing in 1995 for the Fourth World Conference on Women, and was actively involved in a working group that drafted the meeting’s outcome documents. “It was incredible to do that kind of work as a student,” she says. “Providing students access to experiential learning opportunities during their time in law school is important to me. I’m glad to see that it’s also a central value at Rutgers Law, and one that I’m committed to supporting as dean.”
After graduation, Bond held a series of positions focused on human rights, anticipating a career in practice. But her path shifted when she earned a Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellowship placing her at Georgetown University where, in addition to litigation, she helped design and teach a clinical course. “I hadn’t planned on going into academia, but I realized that I loved teaching,” she says. “At the same time, I was glad to keep one foot in the activist world, because it was a clinic doing real work for real clients.”
After a two-year stint teaching at the University of Wyoming College of Law, Bond was recruited to Washington and Lee University in 2008. During her time as a faculty member, Bond was affiliated with the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies program as well as the Africana Studies program, before being tapped in 2012 and again in 2016 to serve as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. Her impressive administrative track record included managing the academic program, advising students, expanding the school’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, supervising faculty, managing the budget, ensuring compliance, and more. “I did a little bit of everything in that position, because I was part of a small, three-person leadership team,” Bond says. “I was able to get an up-close look at the operational aspects of running a law school as well as the big picture view of the mission and vision—and I loved all of it.”
Bond’s excitement for Rutgers Law School is, undeniably, contagious. “Issues around access, affordability, and social justice are central to the mission of the school,” she says, “and these are all issues I care deeply about.”
Her first goal is to learn as much as possible about Rutgers, by speaking with and listening to as many members of the community as she can. But she’s also ready to hit the ground running with a focus on improving an already positive student experience. “Law schools have an obligation to their students to ensure we’re maximizing their potential to enjoy academic success while they’re in law school, pass the bar, and get a job in an area that’s exciting to them,” she says. “That’s the minimum we owe them. My work will center around ensuring student success and putting students first.” This includes increasing bar passage, employment, and efforts surrounding diversity, inclusion, and belonging.
Bond also plans to revamp the alumni relations program to ensure that graduates remain connected to the law school after they leave campus, and increase support for faculty scholarship and the Minority Student Program. This program, Bond notes, is signature for the law school and reflects the strong institutional values of equality and inclusion.
A Renewed Electricity
Bond’s arrival at Rutgers Law is something of a homecoming. A Jersey girl through and through, she grew up in Ramsey and has happy memories of her childhood and young adulthood in the state. (“I grew up in the 80s in New Jersey so I was part of that big hair culture,” she quips. “I went to my first Bruce Springsteen concert at Giants Stadium, and took the train into New York City on the weekends—I thought that was the greatest thing on earth.”) The daughter of a public school teacher and a state college professor, Bond’s fondness for the state will serve her well as she works to strengthen the connections between the law school’s two campuses in Camden and Newark, and execute her vision of Rutgers Law as an institution that provides an outstanding legal education to a diverse range of students at an affordable price—all while acting as a vibrant hub for social change.
“My goal is to build on this incredible history of the People’s Electric Law School, capturing the message of social change and community engagement, and uniting people around this core mission,” Bond says. “Sometimes, it takes someone with a renewed appreciation for those values to remind people how special that is—to be at an institution that embraces the change we want to see in the world.”