Berkeleyan: A newspaper for faculty and staff at UC Berkeley


Berkeleyan HomeSearch BerkeleyanBerkeleyan ArchiveUCB NewsUCB Calendar

 This Week's Stories:


Regular Features


Faculty Profile: Law Professor Rachel Moran Wins Endowed Chair

By Julia Sommer, Public Affairs
posted September 16, 1998

In July, Rachel Moran became the first Latina to win an endowed chair at a major American law school, when she was named the first Robert D. and Leslie-Kay Raven Professor of Law. The chair is reserved specifically for a faculty member whose work promotes social justice.

"It's always an honor to receive a chair," says Moran, "but it's particularly gratifying to have one that recognizes that you have made the contribution you set out to make, and that you intend to continue to make."

At 42, Moran is both charming and intense as she answers questions about her career.

Moran was recruited to Boalt her first year out of Yale law school. At the time she was clerking for Chief Justice Wilfred Feinberg, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York City.

Joining Boalt's faculty in 1982, she took her first year off to practice law with Heller, Ehrman, White & McAuliffe in San Francisco.

The bulk of her research since then concerns bilingual education law and policy, especially the changing role of the federal government in bilingual education -- from one of leadership in the '70s to a hands-off, "new federalism" approach in the '90s.

"The results are not very good," she says. "There's been a drop in funding for public education on both the federal and state levels, and this puts pressure on bilingual programs. In California, the issue has become highly politicized, and there is no stable policy. The magnitude of the problem is unique in California because we have by far the greatest number of immigrants."

She advocates greater federal leadership and resources for bilingual education and more flexibility, funding, parental participation and teacher training for local bilingual programs.

"There's no coherent policy of integration for immigrants," she says. "The federal government controls immigration policy, but leaves the states to deal with the results."

Moran is currently at work on a book about interracial intimacy scheduled for publication next year by the University of Chicago Press.

Her interest in the subject comes partly out of her own background -- her father is Irish-American, her mother is of Mexican descent.

"Even though laws have changed, we're still not color-blind when it comes to choosing partners and places to live," says Moran.

Moran grew up in Missouri and Arizona. She graduated from Stanford in 1978 in psychology with honors and distinction. Later she served as editor of the Yale Law Journal.

She chose an academic career because "I enjoy autonomy and setting my own agenda," she says. "I get to pick problems that interest me and then communicate what I have learned.

"I also enjoy working with students," she adds. "They're a fresh infusion of optimism every year."

Moran, who received a Distinguished Teaching Award in 1995, teaches Torts (personal injury), Education and the Law, and Bilingualism and the Law.

From 1993 to 1996 she chaired the Chicano/Latino Policy Project at Berkeley's Institute for the Study of Social Change. There she oversaw a colloquium for campus faculty and students, conferences and panel discussions on pressing issues, research mini-grants, summer student internships and the publication of working papers and policy profiles. "This enriched my own work," she says. "We learned from each other."

Moran has also been a visiting professor at UCLA, Stanford, New York University and the University of Miami.

Regarding the hot button issue of affirmative action at Boalt, Moran says, "This year's admissions have shown that through hard work and dedication, we can continue to work for diversity in the face of changes in admissions policy. I think the law school has demonstrated its commitment to preserving the value of diversity that the regents endorsed, while respecting the limits on methods that they require. I think we can be proud of what we've accomplished. Of course, we have to continue to work hard in this area."

Says law school dean Herma Hill Kay of Moran: "She's a wonderful faculty colleague -- original, creative, extremely well-organized -- and the students adore her."


[ Back to top ]


UCB Home

This site is produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs, University of California, Berkeley.
Copyright 1998, The Regents of the University of California.
For comments concerning this web service please e-mail