Announcing Franita Tolson as Dean of the USC Gould School of Law

Dean Franita Tolson

Dear USC Faculty, Staff, and Students, 

On behalf of President Folt, I am excited to announce that Franita Tolson has been appointed as the new dean of the USC Gould School of Law, effective April 1, 2024. Dean Tolson will hold the Carl Mason Franklin Chair in Law.

Serving as interim dean since July 1, 2023, Dean Tolson is the first African American dean at USC Gould and only the second female in the school’s 123-year history. She has been a transformative leader and member of the USC Gould community since 2017. She also holds a courtesy faculty appointment in the Political Science and International Relations Department at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Prior to her tenure at USC, she served as an Assistant Professor of Law (2009-2014) and the Betty T. Ferguson Professor of Voting Rights (2012-2017) at Florida State University and was a Visiting Assistant Professor at Northwestern from 2008-2009.  

During her time at USC, Dean Tolson has served as the George T. and Harriet E. Pfleger Chair in Law and was appointed co-dean before her tenure as interim dean in 2023. From 2019-2022, Dean Tolson served as Vice Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs, being offered this esteemed position only six months into her time at USC; a testament to her leadership, expertise, and vision in propelling Gould forward. As Vice Dean, she played an essential role in promoting faculty scholarship and research, and expertly navigated the shift in the school’s needs during the Covid-19 pandemic and the years following. 

Her impressive body of work has included two books, four book chapters, and over 40 articles, essays, and opinion pieces. Her work has appeared or will appear in leading law reviews including the Yale Law Journal, Harvard Law Review, Stanford Law Review, California Law Review, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and Vanderbilt Law Review. Her forthcoming book, In Congress We Trust?: Enforcing Voting Rights from the Founding to the Jim Crow Era, will be published by Cambridge University Press later this year. 

As a nationally recognized expert in election law, Dean Tolson has written for or appeared as a commentator for various mass media outlets including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters and Bloomberg Law. She has successfully testified before Congress numerous times on voting rights issues and has authored a legal analysis for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, introduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Richard Durbin, that would explicitly protect the right to vote. During the fall of 2020, Dean Tolson worked as an election law analyst for CNN alongside her role at USC. During 2020, she also co-hosted an election themed podcast, Free and Fair with Franita and Foley, with Ned Foley of The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. 

Before entering academia in 2008, Dean Tolson clerked for the Hon. Ann Claire Williams of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and the Hon. Ruben Castillo of the Northern District of Illinois. She received her J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School in 2005, where she was a member of the University of Chicago Law Review and won the Thomas Mulroy Prize for Oral Advocacy in the Hinton Moot Court Competition. 

My most sincere thank you also goes to the Gould School of Law dean search advisory committee, co-chaired by Geoffrey Garrett, Dean of the Marshall School of Business, and Robin Romans, Associate Vice Provost for Arts and Academic Affairs. Both provided thoughtful and careful service through this process. I am grateful for the invaluable input and involvement of numerous groups within the USC Gould School of Law community, including faculty, staff, and students. Their feedback throughout this lengthy, intricate process highlights their dedication to the school and our USC community. 

Please join President Folt and me in congratulating Franita Tolson on her new position as the dean of the USC Gould School of Law. We are excited to have such an esteemed member of the USC community take on this position, and are confident her leadership experience, extensive knowledge of law, and expertise in her field will propel USC Gould into a bright future.

Andrew T. Guzman
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs