An experienced academic leader and patent law expert has been selected as the next William J. Maier, Jr. Dean of the West Virginia University College of Law.
Amelia Smith Rinehart’s appointment was announced Tuesday, Jan. 12, by Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Maryanne Reed. Rinehart currently serves as associate dean of academic affairs and professor at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law. Her appointment will begin June 30.
“From her childhood in rural Louisiana to her role as a problem solver and innovator at the University of Utah, Amelia Smith Rinehart has honed the ideal vision to make our College of Law a leader in 21st century legal education and an engine for progress and equity throughout West Virginia,” WVU President Gordon Gee said.
Reed said Rinehart brings a unique mix of skills and talents to the WVU College of Law.
“She is both an engineer and lawyer by training and practice, as well as an academic leader who values cross-disciplinary collaboration, community engagement and stewardship,” Reed said. “We look forward to seeing how she brings her entrepreneurial and innovative spirit to WVU to help advance the College of Law for future generations.”
Rinehart’s senior administration roles at Utah have provided her significant college-level operational experience, including collecting and reporting data for accreditation and ranking bodies, implementing new approaches to recruitment and communications, overseeing departmental budgets, building relationships with donors and alumni, and revising curriculum, faculty governance and decision-making policies. She has also been instrumental in leading the college’s transition to virtual education throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring faculty access to appropriate teaching resources, implementing online exams, and executing multiple curricular and schedule changes.
Prior to her role as associate dean of academic affairs, Rinehart served Utah’s College of Law as associate dean for research and faculty development for three years. She began her career in higher education as a visiting assistant professor of law at Florida State University. Rinehart then joined Utah’s faculty in 2010, earned tenure and promotion to full professor in 2015 and has taught courses in contracts, patent law, intellectual property, and leadership and the law.
After earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biomedical engineering from Tulane University, Rinehart worked as an experimental engineer at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. However, she soon realized she preferred her work with patent counsel and went on to earn her J.D. from the University of Chicago in 2002.
Rinehart practiced law in patent litigation and prosecution for several years in both New York and Louisiana before transitioning to higher education. Her scholarship focuses on patent law and theory, technology transfer and patent licensing, and she has engaged in multiple collaborative and entrepreneurial efforts across the University of Utah.
“I am honored and beyond excited to join the West Virginia University College of Law and the WVU family during these momentous times,” Rinehart said. “The College of Law has a reputation for exemplary faculty, high-achieving students and alumni, and innovative programs that further its mission to excel, to lead and to serve. I look forward to working with President Gee; Provost Reed; the College of Law faculty, staff, students, and alumni; and all of our WVU community members to help the College of Law rise to the challenges that we face in legal education today. Working together, I’m confident that we will thrive in our pursuit of excellence and service and do so committed in every way to our Mountaineer values.”
Diana Martinelli, dean of the WVU Reed College of Media, led the search committee that selected five candidates from a pool of applicants to participate in virtual interviews in November, followed by on-campus meetings with two candidates in December. The University retained the national firm Greenwood/Asher & Associates, Inc. to assist in this search.
Jackson Kelly Professor John Taylor has served as interim dean of the College of Law since July 2020 and will return to the faculty in July 2021.
“We are grateful for and appreciative of Professor Taylor’s steadfast leadership this year, especially given the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic presented,” Reed said. “I know he will continue to serve the law school faculty and the University throughout the spring semester and ensure a successful transition to Professor Rinehart’s leadership.”
The William J. Maier Jr. Deanship at the WVU College of Law was established in 2007. A prominent West Virginia lawyer, businessman and philanthropist, Maier (1903-81) established the Sarah and Pauline Maier Scholarship Foundation in 1958 to honor his mother and his wife. Renamed the Maier Foundation in 2003, it is a private, non-profit charitable corporation located in Charleston.
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