Students interview second presidential candidate, David Brennen


Rob Le Cates

David Brennen, one of four presidential candidates, answers a question about increased funding for athletics in the Arcola-Tuscola room of Martin Luther King Jr. University Union Thursday afternoon. Brennen said he can’t promise anything but he loves fundraising by getting involved with alumni and speaking with state legislators.

Katja Benz, Reporter

David Brennen, one of the final four presidential candidates, had his student interview on Thursday.  

Brennen, who came to campus from the University of Kentucky in Lexington, was the dean of the University’s College of Law from 2009 until he stepped down in 2020; while also being named the Frost, Brown & Todd Professor of Law. During his ten-year appointment, he created multiple dual degree programs such as BA/JD and JD/MBA programs.  

In the BA/JD program, students who major in English, history, or political science could receive a bachelor’s degree in three years and their JD in three years instead of seven overall, but graduate at the end of law school and students in the JD/MBA program could take business and law classes at the same time and receive both an MBA and a JD in three years instead of four.  

Brennen is a first-generation college student who graduated from Florida Atlantic University with a degree in finance in 1988, where he started the first African American fraternity on campus. He received his law degree and Master of Laws in tax law from the University of Florida in 1991 and 1994 respectively.  

During the 2019-2020 school year, during his last year as dean, he was an American Council for Education (ACE) fellow. ACE fellows are university deans, vice presidents, faculty members, emerging leaders and department chairs can immerse themselves in a customized experience where they enhance their leadership, policymaking and decision-making skills. Brennen spent his year developing these skills at St. Olaf College, a small private liberal arts institution in Northfield, MN.   

He started his teaching career at the School of Law at Syracuse University starting in 1995 and has not stopped teaching since. Prior to teaching at the University of Kentucky, he taught at the University of Georgia, Mercer University and the University of Richmond, all in their law schools.  

While the University of Kentucky has over 31,000 students, the law school has only 450, according to Brennen. He enjoys the closeknit relationships at the law school, which is one of the things that he likes about Eastern.  

If elected president, Brennen hopes to move retention rates from 71 to 75% and thinks that more resources such as a new science building, more research opportunities and more will attract diverse faculty, which will also attract a diverse student body.  

Brennen said that in the 2025-2026 school year, there will be a 15% drop in high school graduates, that these graduates will be incredibly diverse and wants to build on community engagement within the university.  

“And so it’s going to be incumbent upon EIU and places like it to make sure that the fewer students you do get in the door you keep them in the door,” Brennen said. “And the way to keep them there is to make sure that they have a sense of belonging, no matter what stage in life they come from, whether they’re poor and sort of the rural areas or minority status or even international students so that we can keep people here.” 


Katja Benz can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]