Jennifer L. Rosato Perea speaks at the Northern Illinois University College of Law 2014 Awards Reception in September 2014. 
Jennifer L. Rosato Perea speaks at the Northern Illinois University College of Law 2014 Awards Reception in September 2014.  — Photo by Michael R. Schmidt

As dean of Northern Illinois University College of Law, Jennifer L. Rosato Perea is known for holding student pizza parties outside her office, e-mailing colleagues past midnight with new ideas, organizing 5K runs and writing a weekly schoolwide newsletter.

On July 1, she will bring that energy and receptiveness from DeKalb to Chicago as the next dean of DePaul University College of Law.

“DePaul is Chicago’s university, and it seems fitting for the law school to be Chicago’s law school,” she said. “I want to help facilitate even more connections with the city of Chicago.”

Rosato Perea replaces interim Dean Bruce L. Ottley, who has been in office since June 1 following the resignation of Gregory Mark. She will be the fourth woman to serve as dean of a Chicago law school.

“DePaul has excellent programs, distinguished faculty and a mission that calls to me, particularly the social justice mission and public interest,” Rosato Perea said.

She became dean at NIU in 2009 after helping open the Drexel University Earle Mack School of Law in Philadelphia in 2005, serving as acting dean during its first year of operation.

That experience, said DePaul’s dean search committee Chairman Jack M. Greenberg, showed “a certain amount of entrepreneurial spirit.”

“She’s got a certain intensity and drive about her that I think is quite impressive,” Greenberg said.

Prior to Drexel, Rosato Perea spent 14 years as a professor and associate dean at Brooklyn Law School. She earned her J.D. in 1987 at University of Pennsylvania Law School. Her main areas of scholarship are family law, bioethics and legal education.

“She’s had a very distinguished career as a dean at Northern Illinois and she’s quite a scholar,” Greenberg said.

The committee valued her experience as a law school administrator along with her scholarship, communication skills and personality.

“The law school has a wonderful tradition and a great faculty and still has a great reputation,” Greenberg said. “The issue here is to leverage that reputation, that talent and faculty ... in a changing environment. And I think Jennifer will do a great job.”

Greenberg also complimented Rosato Perea’s creation of new experiential learning opportunities and a mentoring program that connected NIU’s first-year students with practicing attorneys.

The school’s clinical program doubled during her time there, adding clinics in foreclosure mediation and health advocacy.

She also helped open a recruitment office in Chicago called Chicago Initiatives in hopes of connecting Chicago students with NIU and NIU graduates with Chicago employers.

Rosato Perea plans to continue her style of school communication via “newsletters and town halls and other ways to communicate with the community,” she said.

She added that “it will just be a little bigger than NIU,” referring to DePaul’s 850 students in 2014 compared to NIU’s 304.

“I plan to have an open and informal style (and) to be available to all constituencies including faculty and staff and students,” she said. “That’s what I really enjoy in the job.”

In February, DePaul named Rosato Perea one of its three dean finalists, along with Dean Cynthia Fountaine of Southern Illinois University School of Law and professor Allison Tirres of DePaul.

NIU now begins its search for its 11th full-time dean.

“We will have details of the transition and search plan forthcoming,” said Paul Palian, the university’s director of media relations.

Palian said that the school of law’s interim dean will be an internal hire who will lead the school for the 2015-16 school year.

Founded in 1912, DePaul has had 13 full-time deans. The last, Mark, announced his resignation in January 2014.

Both Mark and Ottley will resume teaching this fall.

Of the 69 deans in the history of Chicago’s six law schools, three have been women: Nina S. Appel at Loyola University Chicago School of Law from 1983 to 2004, the late Teree E. Foster at DePaul from 1997 to 2000 and Patricia Mell at The John Marshall Law School from 2003 to 2005.

“Everybody is really excited to bring DePaul forward,” Rosato Perea said. “And I’m really excited to join them in that adventure.”