Texas Tech University

Professor Combines Passions for Law, Education to Benefit Students

McKenzi Morris

June 2, 2020

Wendy-Adele Humphrey received the 2020 Texas Tech Parents Association Faculty Distinguished Leadership Award.

From a young age, Wendy-Adele Humphrey knew she was going to be an educator. Even after she discovered her love for the law, the desire to be a teacher never faded. She went back and forth between the two fields for several years before combining her two passions as a faculty member in the Texas Tech University School of Law.

Now the School of Law associate dean for assessment and strategic initiatives and Dean's Distinguished Service Professor of Law, Humphrey continues to use her background in both areas to guide the next generation of lawyers.

In her time as a lawyer, Humphrey has been a champion for women's decision-making rights, penning articles that have led to positive changes for young women and their reproductive rights, as well as female lawyers. While at Texas Tech, she also has served on the Texas Tech President's Gender Equity Council, helping to promote equity, inclusion and understanding on campus.

Humphrey also supports her students – advising student organizations and coaching competition teams in the law school. In 2010, she co-coached the students who won the international negotiation competition. She is the director of the Texas Tech Pre-Law Academy, introducing undergraduate students to law school and helping them get a jump start on their future career. She also takes unique approaches to connecting with her students in the classroom, finding creative ways to teach the material so it will be remembered once the semester is over.

Her work for students, the campus and law in general has been recognized by many. She received the 2018-19 President's Excellence in Diversity & Equity Award, the Chancellor's Council Distinguished Teaching Award in 2018 and the Spencer A. Wells Award for Creativity in Teaching in 2014.

This year, Humphrey received the Texas Tech Parents Association Faculty Distinguished Leadership Award.

Can you describe your research and its impact, both in academics and society?
I started advocating for others at a young age. When I was 8, I circulated a petition at my elementary school so students could adopt a part of the highway and be responsible for cleaning it. At age 15, as part of my student council platform, I advocated for adding teaching awards at the annual awards assembly so we could honor our teachers. Fast forward to 2001 when, as a practicing attorney, I began advocating for catastrophically injured individuals and for business owners who had been wronged by others. Now fast forward again. As a law professor, I continue to advocate for others by researching issues related to women's decision-making rights with a focus on reproductive justice, Title IX and gender equity. And my scholarship has made a difference. For example, my article about the unconstitutionality of some judicial bypass provisions in Texas has been presented to state legislators across the nation, prompting positive change for female minors and their reproductive rights.

What projects are you working on at this time?
My current research is focused on the issue of the #MeToo movement and its effect on gender equity in the legal profession. I recently presented on the topic to a group of female lawyers. With their insight, I am continuing to explore practical solutions about how to address the issue of sexual harassment in the legal profession. I also organized a roundtable luncheon for the Organization of Women Law Students so our students could engage in a meaningful discussion about the issue. We must start the conversation sooner – before law students start practicing law – if we want to trigger any real change.

What rewards do you get from teaching?
Teaching is rewarding on so many levels. First, teaching is intellectually stimulating and provides an outlet for my creativity. My students always love it when I make "liquid lasagna" during class to illustrate the proper structure of a legal writing analysis (yes, there is a blender involved). Second, I embrace the opportunity to mentor students. I teach the same first-year law students for two semesters, so I get to see their personal and professional growth, including their "aha" moments. I always strive to go above and beyond to help my students any way I can. I truly want to make a positive difference in their lives, and that is the biggest reward of all.

What motivated you to pursue a career in academia?
I knew from a young age I wanted to be an educator. In fact, when interviewed for my hometown newspaper as a third grader, I proclaimed that one day I wanted to be a teacher. I have, however, always had a pull between education and law. In fact, one month before I was supposed to start law school in the fall of 1995, I decided to pursue my master's degree in curriculum & instruction instead. After teaching seventh grade Honors Texas History for a short period of time, I decided law school was indeed the right path for me. After graduating from law school, I joined a civil litigation firm and became a partner after only five years. Apparently, during a law school alumni event, I mentioned I might enjoy teaching law at some point. Then, one afternoon in February 2007, I received a phone call and was asked to apply for a teaching position in the Legal Practice Program at the law school. More than 13 years later, I cannot imagine a better career. I managed to find a career that combines my two passions: education and law.

How has Texas Tech helped you advance your research and teaching?
Texas Tech has always stepped up to help me advance my research and teaching, and for that I am so grateful. The law school provides summer research stipends, and we have tremendous support in general, for example, funds to hire a research assistant and to attend scholarly conferences. In addition to my regular teaching at the law school, the Office of the Provost has supported the Texas Tech Pre-Law Academy for years. The academy is a rigorous summer program for undergraduate students who are interested in law, and without the support of the provost's office, this opportunity for students would not exist.

Who has had the biggest impact on you and your career, and why?
I could name so many people who have impacted me and my career – from my former law partner, John Lovell, to my dad, who has been zealously practicing law since 1961. But I can narrow it down to one person: attorney Don Hunt. Donald M. Hunt (also known as "Coach Hunt" because of his 30-plus year involvement in the law school's advocacy program) was a highly respected appellate attorney, and I had the opportunity to clerk at his law firm during law school. Upon graduating from law school, Coach Hunt gave my name to a law firm in Amarillo, opening the door for my first job as a Texas lawyer. I learned so much from him, as we often worked on appellate cases together.

Then in 2007, I called Coach Hunt when I needed some advice about whether to join the faculty at the law school. He said, "Well, it'd be nice to have someone at the law school to make sure my courtroom gets done right." That was his way of telling me to take a leap of faith – to leave the practice of law to enter the world of academia. When he was still with us, my picture was displayed in his law office. Now, his picture is displayed in my faculty office, and not a day goes by that I don't think of him and the impact he has had on my life. Thank you, Coach Hunt.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?
The Texas Tech community is amazing! I cannot imagine a better place for me. I feel this way in part because of the strong women leaders we have on this campus like Dr. Aliza Wong and Dr. Elizabeth Sharp, whom I consider to be not only colleagues but dear friends. Their leadership and support help me be a better leader on the Texas Tech campus and beyond.