Dean Chris Guthrie has announced the appointment of Beth Cruz, Class of 2010, as Assistant Dean and Martha Craig Daughtrey Director for Public Interest.
Cruz is responsible for creating public interest law opportunities and facilitating public interest law careers for Vanderbilt Law School students through career advising and employer engagement. She will oversee a robust pro-bono program and play a leadership and mentoring role in the law school’s externship and summer public interest stipend programs. She will also work with the George Barrett Social Justice Program faculty, the Legal Clinic, and other stakeholders to provide public interest law programming.
“I’m thrilled to announce Beth’s appointment,” Guthrie said. “The law school’s Office of Public Interest has demonstrated a strong commitment to cultivating a culture of public service and opportunities for students to use their legal training in service of the greater good, during and after law school. Through financial support, career coaching, programming, and experiential learning, she will help the next generation of Vanderbilt Law students launch public service-minded careers.”
Cruz returns to Vanderbilt Law School from the Nashville Public Defender’s Office, where she led the Education Rights Project, a program focused on disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline through legal representation, policy advocacy and stakeholder education. Cruz provided legal representation to economically vulnerable clients in education, juvenile justice, and child welfare matters for thirteen years. Under her leadership, the Education Rights Project achieved over 3,400 positive outcomes on behalf of Nashville’s youth and provided legal training to over 2,200 community stakeholders. A leader in policy advocacy, Cruz built coalitions with community, governmental, and advocacy groups to end elementary school arrests in Nashville, reduce exclusionary discipline and racial disparity in Nashville’s public schools, and remove language disadvantaging children experiencing poverty from Tennessee’s special education regulations.
“The Vanderbilt Law community provided me with the support to begin and sustain a meaningful career in public interest law,” Cruz said. “I am honored by the opportunity to utilize my expertise to foster the ongoing growth of a vibrant culture of public service at Vanderbilt Law School.”
A Magna Cum Laude graduate of the University of Rochester, Cruz received her J.D. from Vanderbilt Law School, after which she joined the Public Defender’s Office. She began her legal career as a Legal Researcher/Writer at the Northwestern University Center on Wrongful Convictions.
The Martha Craig Daughtrey Public Interest Directorship was endowed by James Cuminale ’78 in honor of Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey ’68 (BA’64). The gift, which provides permanent funding for the leader of Vanderbilt Law School’s public interest program, recognizes Judge Daughtrey’s commitment to public service and impact on the Vanderbilt Law community, both as a ground-breaking professor and judge in federal and state courts.
Spring Miller, the inaugural Assistant Dean for Public Interest, will be joining the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition as Legal Director.
“I am excited to welcome Beth, and I am so very grateful to Spring for her extraordinary contributions to the law school and our students,” said Guthrie.
Cruz will join Vanderbilt Law School this summer.