Karen Tani named a Penn Integrates Knowledge University Professor

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karen Tani has been named the University of Pennsylvania’s 24th Penn Integrates Knowledge University Professor, effective July 1.

The announcement was made today by President Amy Gutmann and Provost Wendell Pritchett.

Tani, a renowned legal historian, will be the Seaman Family University Professor, with faculty appointments in the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School and in the Department of History in the School of Arts and Sciences.

New Penn Integrates Knowledge professor karen tani

“From the modern welfare rights movement to the implications of Title IX in the American legal landscape, Karen Tani is an exceptionally influential scholar who brings wide-ranging expertise at the intersection of law and history to Penn,” said Gutmann. “Her work exemplifies the rigorous cross-disciplinary research and teaching that is so essential to understanding society’s most pressing issues, prominent among them the fairness and integrity of our justice system. We are delighted to welcome home this truly remarkable scholar and educator.”

Tani, the inaugural graduate of Penn’s J.D./Ph.D. Program in American Legal History, is currently a professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley, where she has taught since 2011. Her landmark book “States of Dependency: Welfare, Rights, and American Governance, 1935-1972” (Cambridge University Press, 2016), which was awarded the 2017 Cromwell Book Prize from the American Society for Legal History, examines the evolution of welfare programs across four decades, beginning from the New Deal, as central to the logic of modern American governance.

Her award-winning scholarship also assesses such critical aspects of the American legal landscape as federalism, constitutional equal protection, and Title IX enforcement. Most recently, she has focused on the dramatic transformations in legal approaches to disability in the late 20th century. Tani has been a visiting professor at the Yale and Columbia Law schools, and she clerked for Judge Guido Calabresi of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 2007-08. She earned a Ph.D. in History in 2011 and a J.D. magna cum laude in 2007 from Penn and a B.A. summa cum laude in history from Dartmouth College in 2002, with high honors as a Presidential Scholar.

“Karen Tani’s pioneering work,” said Pritchett, “exemplifies Penn’s defining commitment: to advance the innovative interdisciplinary scholarship that changes how we understand our world. Her fusion of law and 20th century American history continues to offer new insights that illuminate some of our country’s most significant ongoing challenges. I am proud that she is my former student in the J.D./Ph.D. Program, and I am equally proud to welcome her back to Penn as an outstanding new colleague.”

The Penn Integrates Knowledge program was launched by Gutmann in 2005 as a University-wide initiative to recruit exceptional faculty members whose research and teaching exemplify the integration of knowledge across disciplines and who are appointed in at least two Schools at Penn.

The Seaman Family University Professorship is a gift of Julie Breier Seaman, a 1986 graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Jeffrey Seaman, a 1983 graduate of the Wharton School. Julie Seaman, associate professor and associate dean for academic affairs at the Emory University School of Law, is a University Trustee and a member of the School of Arts and Sciences Board of Overseers. Jeffrey Seaman is the founder and CEO of Rooms To Go Inc.

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