Making a Difference for Students Leads to Recognition by American Association of Law Schools

Two members of the Texas Law community were recognized by the American Association of Law Schools (AALS) with national awards on Jan. 5, 2023: Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Elizabeth Bangs and the Alice McKean Young Regents Chair Emeritus Douglas Laycock.

“The leadership and faculty of Texas Law are extraordinarily talented and extraordinarily student-focused,” said Texas Law Dean Bobby Chesney. “It is no surprise to see them recognized at the national level. I congratulate Associate Dean Bangs and Professor Laycock on these awards.”

Dean Bangs’ Focus on Students Recognized with Peter Kutulakis Award

Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Elizabeth Bangs is one of the first people to greet first-year law students at orientation and is the last person they see at graduation before shaking the dean’s hand. In her words, “We cram a lot of life into those three years in the middle.”

Bangs with AALS award
Assistant Dean Elizabeth Bangs displays the 2023 Peter Kutulakis Award presented by the AALS Students Services Section. On her left is Trent Kennedy, past chair of the section and Senior Institutional Research Analyst at Georgetown, and on her right is Jeffrey Dodge, chair of the section and Associate Dean for Academic and Student Services at Penn State Dickinson Law.

Bangs’s role supporting Texas Law students, as well as her leadership of the Office of Student Affairs, was honored by her peers nationally as she received the 2023 Peter Kutulakis Award by the AALS section on Student Services. The award recognizes outstanding contributions of institutions, administrators, and law teachers in the provision of service to students.

Bangs joined Texas Law in 2013, after previous stints at the University of Oklahoma and Harvard Law School. With her Student Affairs team, she supports Texas Law students in all areas, helping them achieve academic and extracurricular goals. Whether counseling students on academic or personal matters, coordinating student activities or implementing policies and procedures, the Student Affairs Office (SAO) aims to maintain the school’s high-quality learning and living environment, while always looking for opportunities to improve and innovate.

In addition to its daily work with all students, SAO produces events such as 1L orientation and the Sunflower Ceremony for commencement; coordinates the school’s unique Society Program; advises the Student Bar Association, and other student organizations; and, manages the Dean’s Fellows, a cohort of upper-class students who serve as mentors and resources for 1L students throughout the first year of law school.

Bangs at Sunflower Ceremony
Dean Bangs enthusiasm and support of students are clearly evident as she congratulates graduate Alyssa Gordon at the 2022 Sunflower Ceremony.

“Everything we do is designed to launch our graduates into happy, healthy, fulfilling lives in the law,” said Bangs.

Bangs also recognized the team aspect of Texas Law faculty in creating a supportive environment for students. “Our faculty recognize that our students are whole people, and they understand that for our students to be successful, we need to work together and approach the student experience holistically,” she said. “I’m immensely grateful to all my faculty colleagues for their support.”

The faculty feel very much the same way about Dean Bangs. In nominating her for this award, Dean Chesney and Associate Deans Eden Harrington and Susan Morse wrote, “Over the course of a decade, Elizabeth has transformed our Student Affairs Office from a place of obligation into a valued destination … Her problem-solving capacity is legendary. Her advice is sound. Her presence is felt everywhere. She makes our student-centered law school possible.”

Alice McKean Young Regents Chair Emeritus Douglas Laycock Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Laylock headshotLongtime Texas Law faculty member Douglas Laycock, the Alice McKean Young Regents Chair Emeritus, was honored with the Lifetime Scholarly Achievement Award from the AALS Section on Remedies.

Laycock, who is also the Class of 1963 Research Professor, and the Robert E. Scott Distinguished Professor of Law, at UVA Law School, as well as a professor of Religious Studies at UVA, is one of the country’s leading authority on the law of remedies and the unquestioned leading expert on the law of religious liberty. In addition to being an accomplished author of casebooks and law journal articles, he has testified many times before Congress and argued numerous cases in the courts, including in the U.S. Supreme Court. He played an important role in helping to launch Texas Law’s Bech-Loughlin First Amendment Center.

Laycock is a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School and Michigan State University.

AALS Annual Awards Program

Bangs and Laycock, along with a host of other distinguished leaders in the legal academy, were acknowledged during an awards ceremony at the 2023 AALS Annual Meeting on Jan. 5, 2023.

“AALS sections are active communities that help foster connections, scholarship, and professional development for law school faculty, staff, and administrators,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, the outgoing AALS President and Dean of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law.

“The association is honored to present section awards to these outstanding individuals and organizations that are truly making a difference in legal education through research, teaching, advocacy, and action.”