Celebrating Women's History

How the first Black female dean of IU McKinney School of Law is preparing the next generation

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Thousands have passed through the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law but when it comes to the dean overseeing its operations, there have been two women.

Karen Bravo is one of them.

Bravo has been on the job as dean for eight months but has been part of the McKinney Law School family since 2004. The pandemic, as in most things, continues to create challenges. She says as an educator, it’s important to pass on what you know. But the dream is for your students to go on and do better.

When asked how it feels to be part of such a legacy, Bravo said, “Now you’re making me think of the awesome responsibility I have. Not only for our students here in our community, here in the building. But all of McKinney’s external constituents, all of our stakeholders, our alumni who came through these walls — who were told by our faculty members and you continue to have that affinity and pride for the school.”

She holds on to that pride. Because for her it’s a duty preparing the next generation of attorneys. And she says the pool of students is growing diverse. Bravo said young people often see the world differently than older generations.

“There’s been a huge increase in applications to law school for this year. And I think it will continue into the future. That started a couple years ago and has continued to grow,” said Bravo.

Bravo doesn’t speak much about being the school’s first Black woman dean of the law school. As a matter of fact, she said she didn’t realize she’d be the first until after being named.

“Gender has nothing to do with it. If you want to be an attorney — male, female, non-binary — there is a place for you here at McKinney School of Law and a place for you in the profession and we want and need you,” she said.

And just overall, enrollment is up. Bravo said young people’s view of the world is often more fluid. And considering what we’re experiencing as a country, many want to be engaged in these very serious policy issues and legal issues.

When asked what it’s been like for her to execute her role do the things she had in mind when she moved into the role, Bravo, “We have had to adjust time frame and take advantage of the time that we now have to prepare for the plans we want to execute. So one of the big plans was lets engage in community-wide strategic planning.”

But at the heart of it all, she’s the dean, but moreso a professor who’s committed. Bravo said while there is growth considering women represent 50% of the population, they aren’t represented equally. So she said it’s important to take risks and apply. If not, those statistics won’t ever change.