Jocelyn Benson is leaving her position as dean of the Wayne State University Law School at the end of the month. She’ll be heading to the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) to become that organization’s CEO.
The Ross Initiative is an effort to improve race relations in America, led by professional sports leagues such as the NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball.
At 36, Benson was the youngest women ever to lead an accredited law school in the U.S.
She joins Detroit Today to talk about the decision, her new mission as part of RISE, and how that relates to recent discussions of race and sports sparked by Colin Kaepernick’s protests during the playing of the national anthem.
“When you look at Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, John Carlos (in) the 1968 Olympics, there’s a history of athletes speaking out and using their platform to spark a conversation about race and race relations in this country,” says Benson. “So, I see that as a continuation of that historical effort.”
“Sports has a way of bringing people together… it’s a way of uniting people,” she continues. “What we’re really looking at is, how can we use that aspect of sports to have conversations and bring people together to recognize our commonalities and stand up for each other as allies in issues of inequality.”
Benson says she had four goals when she started as dean of Wayne Law, and that she realized recently that she feels she achieved those goals.
“The four goals were increasing the affordability of law school, which we’ve done through tuition freezes and increased scholarship support,” she says, “increasing our enrollment… reengaging our alumni… and then providing more opportunities for students to have experience practicing law while in school.”
To hear the full conversation, click on the audio player above.