With the start of the 2023 fall semester, we are excited to see new faces on campus – and that includes a new dean. In July, Dean Marisa Cianciarulo officially took the helm after Dean Easley retired.

Dean Cianciarulo comes to Western State after serving as interim dean at Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law since 2021. She held the role of associate dean for academic affairs before that. During her time with the law school, she founded and directed the Bette and Wylie Aitken Family Protection Clinic. This clinic was created to address unique challenges faced by survivors of domestic violence, and provided free assistance for immigration, human trafficking and protection orders. She also taught courses in civil procedure, gender and sexual orientation and the law, and immigration and refugee law and policy. At Chapman, she was recognized as Professor of the Year in 2010 – 2011, awarded tenure in 2012 and received the Valerie Scudder Award in recognition of outstanding achievement in teaching, scholarship and service in 2017.

Dean Cianciarulo also brings experience co-teaching the CARES (clinic for asylum, refugee and emigrant services) at Villanova University School of Law. She held multiple legal industry roles outside of academia, including staff attorney with the American Bar Association Commission on Immigration. She is involved with several community organizations, including the Cal Law Pathways Leadership Advisory Council and JSerra High School Law Magnet Program Advisory Board.

She earned her J.D. from American University Washington College of Law and is excited to bring her passion and experience to the students at Western State and our faculty.

Keep reading to learn more about Dean Cianciarulo!

Q. How did you get into law?A. The law has intrigued me since I was young. I didn’t have any family or background in law but have always been passionate about advocating for equal rights for various groups. I was raised in a time where I saw a lot of inequality around me, including women being told they didn’t belong in certain roles or leadership positions, and I saw law as being a way to make a change.

Q. You published extensive research around immigration and reproductive rights. Can you share more about your work in this space?When I was in law school, I was part of an immigration legal clinic where we helped asylum seekers in immigration court get protection. It was an eye-opening experience seeing the difference it made for these individuals when they had a lawyer supporting them during the process. After graduating, I had the opportunity to teach in a similar clinic and started practicing immigration law in the Washington, D.C. area. I had the privilege of representing people from Central and South America, Afghanistan, Africa, Asia, Pakistan and Eastern Europe in political asylum and other immigration matters and have dedicated a lot of my research to focus on vulnerable immigrant populations and the intersection of gender and immigration. An example of my work on the intersection of immigration and equality rights includes:

As reproductive rights become increasingly vulnerable post-Dobbs, my future work will focus on reproductive freedom. I began writing in this area in 2016:

I am excited to support and work alongside our faculty as they continue to advance the legal community through their research.

Q: What made you interested in becoming a dean?A. I loved teaching and didn’t immediately see being a dean as a natural career progression for me. It wasn’t until 2017 that I decided to give it a try when I took on the role of associate dean for academic affairs. I realized that being a dean was an opportunity to give back to the faculty and law school. This desire to serve my community motivated me to move into the interim dean position in 2021. As dean, I enjoyed being a stabilizing force for the school. I see leadership as a service and am always looking to see how I can create an atmosphere to help students, faculty and staff feel heard and empowered. I was also inspired by the greater sense of teamwork and loyalty I witnessed within my first 18 months at Chapman and truly enjoyed lifting others up and celebrating their successes.

Q: What makes you most excited about working at Western State?A: During the 17 years I was at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law, Western State has been our neighbor. Western State has a strong reputation and continues to serve an important role in the legal community – especially in Southern California. I am honored and excited to bring my skills to Western State and build upon the incredible foundation Dean Easley established. During my interactions with Western State, I could tell it had a collaborative environment and strong alumni base. Those aspects are strong footholds for continued growth.

Q: What do you plan to do as dean?A: As the new dean at Western State, I believe it is important for me to get to know the faculty and students first before making any substantive changes. I am grateful to have a lot of support already and hope that by working together we will be able to reach our goals for growth and improve our offerings to students. I will eventually be teaching civil procedure and look forward to working more closely with the students. One of my first initiatives will also be launching an immigration clinic that will have a place on campus for students to gain real world experience, as well as for Western State to give back to the community.

We are thrilled to have Dean Cianciarulo on campus and excited for Western State to build upon its strong legacy in Southern California!

For more information, read her full bio: https://www.wsulaw.edu/faculty-and-staff/full-time-faculty/ and follow us on social – Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn – to stay up-to-date on events she will be attending or speaking at.