Biography of Michael A. Fitts
President Fitts believes students and higher education institutions can set themselves apart in a fast-changing world and ever-shifting economy through the combining of different fields and skills. In his first year at Tulane, he launched task forces to lead the university in deepening its unique strengths for interdisciplinary collaboration. He sees powerful advantages in the university’s manageable size, its wide selection of professional schools, the unified undergraduate college and multiple cross-disciplinary projects already in place. He aims to create the most engaged undergraduate experience in the country through this rethinking of academic options, residential living, extracurricular activities and more. In graduate education and research, he will foster intellectual cross-pollination that can produce solutions to some of the world’s most fundamental problems.
This focus also extends to Tulane’s physical campuses. President Fitts has initiated a campus master planning process with a 21st century vision of spaces redesigned to promote connections. That includes drawing people together from different parts of campus and linking different functions of the university, such as residence halls with dining hubs and academic venues.
Another avenue for making connections is public service, an area where Tulane is a leader in higher education. President Fitts lauds the pursuit of community work for its power to show students how theory connects with practice. It gives them real-world experience with the concepts they study in class. His vision for the university includes enhancing the ties between public service and academics.
Before arriving at Tulane, President Fitts served 14 years as dean of the Law School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was recognized for greatly boosting that school’s offerings in interdisciplinary education. He also presided over a quadrupling of Penn Law’s endowment, a more than 40 percent increase in the size of the Law School faculty and a doubling of all forms of student financial aid. He oversaw the rebuilding or renovation of the entire Law School campus. The Law School’s Board of Overseers named a faculty chair, a scholarship and an auditorium at the school in his honor.
President Fitts is a native of Philadelphia. He earned a bachelor of arts degree from Harvard University in 1975. Inspired by To Kill a Mockingbird and its heroic protagonist Atticus Finch, he attended Yale Law School. He was editor of the Yale Law Journal and received his juris doctorate in 1979.
He served as a clerk for federal judge and civil rights advocate Leon Higginbotham, who became a mentor to him. President Fitts then worked as an attorney in the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, where he served as outside counsel to the President, White House and Cabinet.
His teaching career began at Penn Law in 1985. He has written extensively on presidential power, separation of powers, executive branch decision-making, improving the structure of political parties and administrative law. He served as president of the American Law Deans Association.
President Fitts and his wife, Renée J. Sobel, Esq., have two adult children.