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Making Strides


It’s said the best way to get to know a new place is to put on some good shoes and start walking. After exploring locations far and wide, Odette Lienau is now applying that advice as she maps out the future of BC Law as the inaugural Marianne D. Short, Esq., Dean.

Odette Lienau doesn’t just enjoy urban hiking—she loves exploring cities on foot. It’s a pastime she and her husband, Aziz Rana, share. For decades, these “sole mates” have wandered boulevards, community gardens, and historic sites throughout the world, collecting stories from the people they’ve met along the way.

On an urban hike during their honeymoon in Turkey nearly 20 years ago, they met local artists and took home a handcrafted vase as a memento. In Barcelona, they learned what is considered “dinner time” in Spain. They’ve toured all of Boston’s neighborhoods, first as students at Harvard where they met and now, with their two children. Several years ago, Lienau flew into Buenos Aires, Argentina, early for a conference. The day before it started, she walked the city from 4 p.m. until midnight, soaking in the history, culture, and cuisine. “It was spectacular,” she recalls.

These days, Lienau can be found crisscrossing the Newton Campus as she carves a path at Boston College Law School.

Following the departure of long-time Dean Vincent Rougeau in 2021 and Professor Diane Ring’s term as interim dean, Lienau became the inaugural Marianne D. Short, Esq., Dean in January 2023. “The Law School has done such a fantastic job retaining its norms and strengths over the course of these leadership transitions,” Lienau says. “It’s a real testament to the school, the community, and the incredible administrative team and faculty we have in place.”

In her first 18 months on the job, Lienau has infused new energy and life into the school—literally—by placing potted plants in campus spaces and by opening the dean’s suite monthly to host student coffee hours. She is also connecting with the faculty, and meeting with alumni and other Law School supporters on listening tours.

Boston College Law School pictured from


As the Law School approaches our centennial in 2029, it’s an important time to think big about who we are, who we want to be, and what we want to stay committed to being: a leader in legal education.”

—DEAN ODETTE LIENAU

Her sense of adventure, her positivity, and her curious spirit have served her well, especially as the start of her tenure coincided with a time of political unrest and upheaval—in the U.S. and abroad. “This last year has been a challenging one on many levels,” Lienau says, referring to the Supreme Court’s decision to eliminate the use of affirmative action in admission decisions as well as the Israel-Hamas war. “These events all implicate questions of law, justice, and national and international security, which are very present topics of conversation and teaching at a law school,” she adds. “Yet the way in which the Law School community has been kind to each other through these disruptive events in law and in the world is very meaningful—and also a major accomplishment. Not my accomplishment,” she emphasizes. “This is the institution’s accomplishment.”

Throughout its history, BC Law has consistently delivered on its mission, grounded in Boston College’s Jesuit, Catholic tradition, of high academic standards, analytical thinking, collegial interaction, and a social conscience. It has generated an impressive record of education, scholarship, and activity in social justice and public service—through its work aiding immigrants and refugees as well as its groundbreaking research in areas such as environmental law, racial justice, international law and conflict, land and property rights, and more. Above all, BC Law continues to develop top lawyers who are committed to the equal dignity of all. 

“We need a legal profession that’s not only well trained to fiercely advocate for particular client views, but also one that understands the need to ask the deeper ethical and moral questions,” Lienau says. “It is such an important part of what a law school is or should be, certainly what BC Law School is and needs to be going forward.”

A.K.A. “The Happiest Place on Earth”

The Law School’s decades-long legacy of being a welcoming, collegial environment is why it’s known as “the Disneyland of law schools.” It’s what prospective students ask her about more than anything else.

“Our students are deeply attentive to the problems of the world and are committed to thinking about how a legal education, and their future work as attorneys, can help to solve those problems,” says Lienau (pictured above, center). “At the Law School, we want to make sure that we have the capacity to bring students in, support them financially, and provide them with the absolute best education so they can give back to the world.” Pictured with Lienau are several of the Marianne D. Short and Ray Skowyra Scholars (left to right): Timothy Lambert, JD’25; Shun Ouyang, JD’24; Kaela Hardy, JD’24; and Ryan O’Malley, JD’24.

How true is it? “It depends on what you mean by Disneyland, and if you like Disneyland or not,” says the dean with a smile. “Our students are interesting, committed, and smart. They’re also kind to each other, which is not always the case in law schools and among classmates. Overall, our community is based on collegiality, warmth, and authentic connections—the kind of environment where ideas and dialogue can thrive. So yes, BC Law is a place that has a very strong sense of community and a commitment to treating people with compassion. But it is very real, and we deal with very real problems. It is not a fantasy land.” 

Mutual respect, integrity, and shared interpersonal values among students, faculty, and administration make this possible, Lienau says, adding that she thrives on interacting with partners throughout the University to address challenges and opportunities—and shape the school’s educational landscape.

Navigating uncharted paths. Embarking on new journeys. Serving as a dean is like being an explorer—or an urban hiker. Lienau finds joy in all of it, especially when it comes to collaboratively mapping out the future of BC Law.

“I really enjoyed that aspect of it as an associate dean at Cornell, and now even more so as a dean,” she says. “That said, it depends on where you’re a dean, right? There are places where this could not be a fun job. And luckily, this is a place where it’s a fantastic job.”

by 2029

Soaring Higher, BC’s comprehensive fundraising campaign, includes a goal of raising $100 million for BC Law to attract and retain top-tier faculty, provide scholarships, and enhance the student experience on campus.

FINANCIAL AID

BC Law’s ability to provide competitive financial aid packages to admitted students ensures that top candidates, from a range of backgrounds, can be trained in the school’s singular legal educational community. With increased support, BC Law can expand access and live up to its mission—forming the next generation of top-notch lawyers serving the greater good.

ACADEMICS

BC Law faculty are more than instructors; they are researchers, clinicians, and mentors who help students develop intellectually and ethically. What attracts outstanding professors to BC and keeps them here is the promise that they can do their best work—including through faculty support and endowed professorships. The more BC Law invests in faculty, the richer the student experience becomes and the more academically competitive the school will be.

STUDENT LIFE

Improvements to academic buildings and gathering spaces, as well as enhancements to student life programs and opportunities inside and outside the classroom, will augment the overall experience and the well-being of the student body at BC Law.

5 Interesting Things in Dean Lienau's Office
Lienau’s office is filled with interesting mementos, each telling a small story or holding some deeper significance. Here are a few that stand out.
Ideation Wall

Photographs of Lienau’s family adorn her desk and bookshelves.

West Side Story

Lienau and her husband, Aziz Rana, met as undergraduates on their very first day at Harvard. They’ve been together ever since. Today, Rana is the J. Donald Monan, S.J., Professor in Law. They acquired this petite vase on an urban hike while on their honeymoon in Turkey nearly 20 years ago.

Cowbell

This delicate encased ship is constructed out of sterling silver strands, a traditional art form in Indonesia, where Lienau grew up. “My parents gave this to me when I earned my PhD,” she says, “reminding me that in life, we are always on a journey.”

pothos plant

The hearty pothos plant is native to Indonesia, Lienau’s home country. Propagated cuttings decorate her office shelves and tables—and nooks throughout the buildings on campus. “I love plants, so I have a few in my office and all over the Law School. The students like them—just a little life and a little greenery. I stick them everywhere, even my BC Law mug!” she says.

Lienau's coaster from the first conference she attended as a junior law professor

The first conference Lienau attended as a junior law professor was held at the historic Hotel Boulderado in Boulder, Colorado. Since 1908, Hotel Boulderado has welcomed weary travelers and celebrities such as Robert Frost, Benny Goodman, and Louis Armstrong. “I keep this coaster as a reminder of the path of my career, as well as my friends and colleagues from that conference,” she says.

Photographs of Lienau’s family adorn her desk and bookshelves.

Lienau and her husband, Aziz Rana, met as undergraduates on their very first day at Harvard. They’ve been together ever since. Today, Rana is the J. Donald Monan, S.J., Professor in Law. They acquired this petite vase on an urban hike while on their honeymoon in Turkey nearly 20 years ago.

This delicate encased ship is constructed out of sterling silver strands, a traditional art form in Indonesia, where Lienau grew up. “My parents gave this to me when I earned my PhD,” she says, “reminding me that in life, we are always on a journey.”

The hearty pothos plant is native to Indonesia, Lienau’s home country. Propagated cuttings decorate her office shelves and tables—and nooks throughout the buildings on campus. “I love plants, so I have a few in my office and all over the Law School. The students like them—just a little life and a little greenery. I stick them everywhere, even my BC Law mug!” she says.

The first conference Lienau attended as a junior law professor was held at the historic Hotel Boulderado in Boulder, Colorado. Since 1908, Hotel Boulderado has welcomed weary travelers and celebrities such as Robert Frost, Benny Goodman, and Louis Armstrong. “I keep this coaster as a reminder of the path of my career, as well as my friends and colleagues from that conference,” she says.


Jill Caseria

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