New assistant dean helps students navigate law school life at Michigan

By Lori Atherton

Bayrex Martí had numerous mentors at Michigan Law who helped him succeed academically and professionally. As the Law School’s new assistant dean for student life, Martí is paying it forward by helping the next generation of students navigate law school life.
Martí joined the Law School in October from Villanova University’s Charles Widger School of Law, where he was the executive director of admissions and financial aid. Prior to that, he served as the director of recruitment and associate director of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

“This is an amazing opportunity, and I’m happy to be back at my alma mater,” Martí said. “There’s an energy here, and it’s something I haven’t gotten anywhere else. I feel invigorated coming to work every day.”

Martí replaces David Baum, ’89, who served for 22 years in the role before becoming the associate director in U-M’s Office for Institutional Equity in August. Following in Baum’s footsteps is “wonderful, but surreal,” Martí said, particularly since Baum encouraged him to consider administration as a career path.

After earning a BA in political science from the University of Puerto Rico, Martí came to Michigan Law unsure of which type of law he wanted to practice. Though he interned with a federal judge and worked at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission while in law school—experiences he enjoyed—he knew he didn’t want to follow a traditional legal path. His involvement with student groups, including Outlaws, the Latino Law Students Association, and the Law School Student Senate, of which he was vice president, helped him develop leadership skills. Volunteering with the Admissions Office gave him direct contact with prospective students—work he continued after graduating from Michigan Law.

“Back in 2006, for about 10 weeks in the fall, Bayrex served as our seasonal admissions representative,” said Sarah Zearfoss, ‘92, senior assistant dean. “I vividly remember standing next to him at the New York City Law School Admission Council forum and seeing firsthand his amazing ability to connect with prospective law students, and thinking, ‘we have got to get this guy back to Michigan Law someday.’ And now we have.”

As the assistant dean for student life, Martí leads the Office of Student Life, and works with faculty and administrators “to deliver consistent and coordinated student support.” He also serves as dean of students, with the goal of “providing a vibrant, challenging, and academically rewarding environment in and out of the classroom.”

One of Martí’s priorities is focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion. “I want to look at the different ways we are supporting, empowering, and engaging students, and making them feel that they belong here,” Martí said. Another focus is mental health and wellness, a topic that Martí said is often taboo in higher education. “Michigan Law is doing well in this area, but I think in higher education in general, people don’t want to talk about mental health,” he said. “We want to make sure that our onsite counselor, Reena Sheth, is visible, and that we offer a wide range of programming. Mental health issues affect everyone; for some people, it means effective time management or relaxation, and for others, it means dealing with finances or navigating personal relationships and the stress that comes with being in law school. The more that students see and hear from us, the more it creates a culture that it’s okay to ask for help and to take care of yourself.”

As Martí continues to get acclimated to his role as assistant dean for student life, you can expect to find him out and about in the Law Quad. “I want people to know who I am, and to get to know the names and faces of students,” he said. “And knowing the students in contexts outside of my office—just from walking around, attending events, and getting to know people before they need any ‘dean of students’ assistance—is incredibly rewarding, and ultimately, helps me do my job better. I want students to know that they don’t need a reason to see us, and that our relationship can be about anything they want it to be.”