Jay Austin has a long and successful professional career overseeing admissions operations primarily in many of the nation’s top law schools—including most recently at UC Irvine School of Law, Pennsylvania State Law School, Penn Law, UC Hastings College of the Law, and Columbia Law School. Dean Austin brings his expertise to the role of Senior Associate Dean of Enrollment Management and Financial Aid at Rutgers Law School, where he will oversee admissions at both the Newark and Camden locations. A native Newarker and graduate of Columbia University, Dean Austin believes “you can always come home again.”
What drew you to Rutgers Law School?
Professionally, except for the years I worked in Azerbaijan, I have spent nearly 30 years overseeing admissions and financial aid offices at several US law schools. In each of these positions, I have faced some of the most vexing enrollment management issues in legal education. Nonetheless, it is rare when the opportunity to align one's personal and professional experience appear. Thus, in many ways the invitation to join the Rutgers Law community represents the nexus of my life. In addition to the breadth and depth of my professional life, I am a fourth-generation Newarker. Even though I have lived outside the state for decades, my Garden State roots always remained firmly in place. The opportunity to assume my role where I can be of service in collaborations with the co-deans, senior leadership, faculty, staff and students who are deeply committed to the institution and embrace core values reflect my own—I was keen on seeking to be in this role leading the enrollment team at the nation's only unified law school with two legacy campuses.
What do you want students to know about Rutgers Law?
As one of the largest law schools in the country, Rutgers Law is uniquely positioned to provide the students who seek the widest exposure to a legal education and the practice of law at the highest level. The academic program provides the traditional doctrinal offerings with experiential learning that is a key component of what today's legal practitioners require. I believe the historical and continuing commitment to providing access to the JD program for students that reflect the many facets of our society, particularly at this time is also a key mission of the law school. I love that students are supported in extraordinary ways to achieve their potential as they prepare for their own professional careers.
Tell me some of the goals you have this first year:
I believe spending a good part of the first few months just listening to various members of the community is very important. During the interview process, I met the co-deans, faculty, staff and students at both locations and I promised I would continue a "listening tour." Beyond that, I hope to collaborate with members of my team and other members of the community, including the affinity groups and individual students, to enhance the recruitment, selection and post-acceptance processes. Finally, given my wealth of administrative experience, I hope I can be of service to the co-deans as well as be involved in strategic planning and implementation discussion that continues to permit Rutgers Law to be among the nation's top law schools.
You have been living on the West Coast for some time, what's it like being back?
Though Southern California has been my home for nearly the last 10 years, I continue to make frequent trips to places throughout the country including the mid-Atlantic region. I like to say...home is where you are when you're there. So New Jersey, is home (again) now. Returning to the area also permitted my wife, Tamara Austin, to have her dream job, and for both of us to be closer to immediate family, including our adult children.
What do you love about your job?
Over the decades and at various schools, the science and art of managing an equitable, timely and legally sound selection process that brings talented and diverse students to the nation's law schools is with nuances and complexities has continued to excite me. In fact, I've been doing this long enough that around the country you'll find law faculty that I admitted to law school, and an occasional dean too. I love following the careers of the students I've admitted and really enjoy hearing from them as they pursue their professional lives.
Tell me more about yourself:
If you had told me when I was attending South 8th Street Elementary School, growing up on 12th Street and Central Avenue, that one day I would be charged with the responsibility to manage the unit that recruits and enrolls students for the public law school of the State of New Jersey, I would have told you that's crazy talk. Yet, here I am - a proud first-generation, highly-respected member of the national law school community and ecosystem of legal education, and an authentic gender outlaw. I only wish my parents could see me now.