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Chancellor Mnookin

UW–Madison Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin is pictured in a studio portrait wearing black with a UW–Madison silk scarf.On August 4, 2022, Jennifer L. Mnookin, an influential legal scholar, award-winning educator, and experienced academic administrator, became chancellor of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is the 30th person to head the university in its 175-year history.

One of the nation’s foremost experts on evidence law, Mnookin was dean of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law for seven years before her arrival at the UW. Admired by colleagues as a strategic, collaborative, and inspiring administrator, and widely cited for her academic research, Mnookin also received UCLA Law’s highest teaching honor: the Rutter Award for Excellence in Teaching.

During her time as dean, UCLA Law achieved the school’s highest ranking in its history, while both the academic distinction and the percentage of underrepresented and first-generation college graduates in its student body increased.

Her fundraising success exceeded goals and shattered previous records, and she grew resources for new centers and institutes in areas ranging from law and technology to immigration law to human rights, while also attracting numerous new donor-supported faculty chairs and recruiting strong faculty talent to the school.

Dedicated to student success

Mnookin’s commitment to students is reflected in several initiatives during her deanship, including a new full-tuition scholarship program for high-achieving students who have overcome significant life obstacles, the first endowed Black Law Students Association scholarship, and substantially increased support for students committed to tribal advocacy and work in Native Nations. She expanded programs to help students gain practical legal skills in the community, championed global engagement, and created new opportunities in the areas of inclusion and mental health. For five years she chaired UCLA’s council of 14 professional school deans, and helped coordinate UCLA’s response to COVID-19, as well as played campuswide roles in efforts to advance faculty diversity, mentor new deans, and promote campus sustainability efforts. She also served on several national boards relating to legal education and law schools.

A respected legal mind

Mnookin was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2020. She served on the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) Committee on Science, Technology, and Law and currently co-chairs a NASEM committee on facial recognition technology. She is one of the most cited evidence scholars in the country, and has written about legal issues not just for scholarly audiences but also in national publications like the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the LA Times.

Connecting the campus community

Since arriving at UW–Madison, Mnookin has been credited with thoughtful community building — engaging with campus constituencies, elected officials, tribal leaders, nonprofit organizations, and business people. She has traveled throughout Wisconsin, listening to the university’s many stakeholders to learn what the institution is doing well and what it can do better. In addition to spending a great deal of time within UW–Madison and in the local community, her itineraries have included a dairy farm, a cranberry bog, a brewery, two Wisconsin fairs, an urban high school, and a Milwaukee Brewers game. She is committed to furthering UW–Madison’s inclusive excellence, to celebrating and enhancing both our world-class research enterprise and our deep commitment to a transformative educational experience, and to building still further on the power of the Wisconsin Idea.

A lifetime of service

Mnookin was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and grew up primarily in Northern California. She received her undergraduate degree from Harvard, her law degree from Yale, and a PhD in history and social study of science and technology from MIT. Before joining UCLA, she began her teaching career as a law professor at the University of Virginia School of Law. She was also a visiting professor at Harvard Law School.

A strong proponent of living kidney donation, Mnookin donated one of her kidneys to her father when he needed a transplant in 2020. Thanks to an innovation based on UW–Madison research — a storage solution developed here to safely preserve organs outside the body for hours without deterioration — her kidney was able to be transported coast-to-coast, from Los Angeles to Boston, for the successful operation.

Mnookin is married to Joshua Foa Dienstag, a professor of political science at UW–Madison and nationally recognized scholar whose research focuses on the intersection of politics with time, history, memory, and narrative. They are the parents of two adult children, Sophia and Isaac.