Franita Tolson becomes first Black law dean at USC Gould.
Franita Tolson becomes first Black law dean at USC Gould. Credit:

Last Updated on July 28, 2023 by BVN


In a significant milestone for the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, Franita Tolson has been appointed as the interim dean, making history as the first Black dean in the law school’s 123-year existence and the first woman to hold this position in over four decades. 

Tolson’s appointment comes after an extensive selection process, where she emerged as the ideal candidate among more than 70 contenders for the prestigious role. Her previous experience and invaluable contributions to the university have garnered praise and support from her colleagues.

Andrew T. Guzman, who served as dean for eight years before becoming USC’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, spoke highly of Tolson’s guidance and foresight during the pandemic, emphasizing her role in prioritizing community safety while preserving the educational and research mission. 

As the first African American to hold this position ever and the first woman to hold this position in over four decades, “my deanship will be about creating a new legacy and standing on the shoulders of giants,” Franita Tolson said in a statement about her appointment as USC Gould’s First Black Law Dean. (source:

Tolson, an accomplished scholar in election law, joined USC Gould Law in 2016 as a visiting professor before becoming a full-fledged professor of law in 2017. Her expertise spans various areas, including election law, constitutional law, legal history, and employment discrimination. She has published prolifically and made significant contributions to the field, with her research being featured in top legal journals and her insights sought after by major news networks and the U.S. House and Senate. 

An advocate for voting rights

Notably, Tolson has actively worked to promote voting rights and democracy, aligning with her mission of helping people vote and ensuring the functioning of democracy for all, especially the less fortunate. 

Envisioning the future

As she steps into her new role as dean, Tolson said she plans to imbue the law school with a sense of service and responsibility, aiming to make positive changes that will benefit students, faculty, and the entire school community. 

Tolson’s vision for her tenure as interim dean revolves around three student-centered priorities: strengthening the faculty’s expertise, investing in student resources, and improving the law school’s physical facilities. She is committed to ensuring that students have all the necessary resources to thrive both within and beyond the law school environment. 


Before joining USC, Tolson began her teaching career at Florida State University College of Law, followed by a tenure as the Betty T. Ferguson Professor of Voting Rights from 2012 to 2017. She has an impressive background, having clerked for Judge Ann Claire Williams of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and Judge Ruben Castillo of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Tolson earned her law degree from the University of Chicago Law School and holds a degree in history from Truman State University. 

As she embarks on her journey as USC Gould’s interim dean, Tolson acknowledges the historical significance of her appointment as the first Black dean and first woman in over four decades. Her determination to create a new legacy while standing on the shoulders of giants reflects her commitment to breaking barriers and inspiring future generations. The appointment of Tolson marks a momentous step towards a more diverse and inclusive academic leadership, bringing new perspectives and fresh opportunities to the prestigious law school. 

With a stellar background in academia and a passion for promoting voting rights and democratic values, Franita Tolson’s tenure as interim dean holds the promise of driving Gould School of Law towards a brighter and more equitable future.

Asante-Ra is a versatile writer committed to delivering informative and engaging content. They are a voracious media consumer, and lifelong learner passionate about science, health, gender diversity, accessibility, racial equity, and civic participation. They have a broad range of interests including society, culture, popular education, history, human sexuality, romance, comedy, poetry, and exploring topics such as indigeneity, world religions, mythology, astrology, and Blackness.