Posted: January 20th, 2021 | By: Jorge Reyna
Chris Martin is the new Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs at Wake Forest Law. He comes to this position from Northwestern University where he served in the same role. At Wake Forest Law, he will oversee the academic policies and procedures for all its academic programs, including the JD; international LLM, SJD, and visiting researchers; and MSLs. He is also responsible for managing the Registrar, developing initiatives that contribute to the strategic priorities of the school, and helping us evaluate and streamline academic processes in areas such as advising and degree requirement, course scheduling and exams, program and curriculum review, learning and outcomes, committees and academic events, enrollment, and registration.
While at Northwestern, he also taught several courses as Assistant Clinical Professor and served as faculty advisor for many years in an International Team Project that took him all over the world, including Morocco, France, Argentina, Chile, Turkey, Thailand, Myanmar, Peru, and Tanzania. When asked to share some memorable experiences from his travels, he began, “ITP is more like investigative journalism than traditional research.” Then went on to recall the work his students did in Argentina researching a statute that required children of the “Dirty War” of the late 1970s and early 1980s to submit DNA samples to try to identify their birth parents. It was a dark period in Argentina’s history, when about 30,000 Argentines disappeared after being abducted by the military. Women who were pregnant at the time of their abduction were kept alive to have their babies, who were then given to friends of the military. His students were able to interview many of the people affected, including Miriam Lewin, a woman who disappeared at 18. They learned her story of survival in captivity, which was only possible because her fluency in English was useful to the government.
It also happened that Wright Thompson, from ESPN The Magazine, was in Argentina at the same time. The ESPN journalist was so impressed with them that he took the group under his wing and facilitated interviews all over Buenos Aires, including one with Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, a group of women who had been marching weekly demanding to know what happened to the children of their children who had disappeared. It was “a very emotional interview,” Chris recalls.
During these trips, they sometimes paired countries that shared long borders for their studies. On the Argentina/Chile trip, for example, he says, “I was struck by the differences … Legally, legislatively, and culturally, the countries are so different.” In spite of their shared border, Argentina was battling corruption, economic instability and political disarray, while its neighbor Chile had the best and most consistent economy in South America and a strong democracy.
As he reflects on what drew him to Wake Forest and his new role, he shares, “I did not know that much about the school until my oldest son decided to enroll in the fall 2020 first-year undergraduate class at the University. Through the process of getting him on campus during a pandemic, I was extremely impressed by how the University worked with its students and their families. There is a sense of community that is very strong.” It was this connection to the people he encountered during the interview process—faculty, staff, and a group of about 15 students he met in October—that sealed the deal for him. “Of course, Winston-Salem winters compared to Chicago didn’t hurt!”
He is settling well in his new city, milder winter and all. He has already been hiking in Pilot Mountain State Park, which left him excited to explore North Carolina’s fantastic State Parks. “I’m looking forward to exploring them all,” he exclaimed. And on a foodie note, he shared, “I also grew up in Kansas City, so I am already comparing and contrasting North Carolina BBQ with what I had growing up. So far, so good!”
When asked how his philosophy as an educator and administrator has evolved, he shares: “Over the past 15 years, I have changed the perception of my role as an educator from one who stands in front of students lecturing to one of collaboration with students as I play a role in getting them to where they want to be. I find myself asking a lot more questions, and doing quite a bit more listening.”
The students, faculty, and staff at Wake Forest Law are lucky to have him.