Administration, Education, Higher Education

General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officer & Vice President of Legal Affairs

  • Chicago State University
  • Chicago, IL
About The University

Chicago State University (CSU) has a rich history of providing education opportunities that dates to the Reconstruction Era. CSU is Illinois’ only four-year U.S. Department of Education-designated Predominately Black Institution and is a member of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. Today, as a nationally accredited university with five colleges in Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, Health Sciences, and Pharmacy, CSU proudly supports a diverse student population that hails from 28 countries and 36 states.

Equity is at the heart of what Chicago State does every day. As an accessible university with an affordable tuition rate and commitment to supporting its students inside and outside of the classroom, CSU is able to elevate underserved student populations to better access enriching careers. Graduates of CSU are among the most likely to improve their economic status with a college degree. In ranking the nation’s best universities for economic and social mobility, CSU ranked number two out of 103 colleges and universities in Illinois, and in the top 4 percent nationwide out of over 2,000 colleges and universities[1]. According to a study by the University of Southern California’s Race and Equity Center, CSU is ranked first in Illinois and tied at second nationwide among public universities for equity in educating and supporting Black students.

For the 2019-20 academic year, Chicago State University (CSU) experienced a 4% increase in undergraduate enrollment. This record increase was attributable to several factors, including: the introduction of stable leadership, a focused attention on the renewal and promotion of the CSU brand; active engagement and relationship cultivation with new external stakeholders; and implementation of student success and innovative academic programming. However, due to the unprecedented global pandemic since that time, national enrollment data has shown that the populations CSU predominately serves (Black and Latinx students, low-income students, community college transfers, and students aged 25 and up) experienced some of the greatest challenges in accessing higher education. In recognition of the ongoing disruption of the global pandemic and associated events, CSU has revised its strategic plan for undergraduate enrollment, and university resources are being reassessed and redeployed to support vulnerable student populations across Chicago and beyond.

CSU has a world-class faculty among whom are award winners, prolific authors, researchers who work on groundbreaking projects in the sciences and humanities, and leaders in community organizations. They’ve recently hired 15 new faculty members. CSU continues to innovate its curriculum and launched their first MBA program through an Executive MBA format in the 2019-20 academic year, with the first cohort of MBA graduates this past year. There is a newly accredited Library Science Master’s Program that is one of only two programs in the country accredited by the American Library Association that serves a primarily African American student body. In addition, CSU has introduced an Adult Integrated Learning Program that allows adult learners and returning students to receive college credit for life and work experience.

Over the last 3 years, CSU has been transforming and renewing its campus to better support students. They recently received $34 million in new capital funds from the State of Illinois. Some of the biggest capital projects will be the development of a new health professions simulation lab and the construction of the CSU Institute for Solutions for Urban Populations.

Beyond physical improvements, the university has instituted a comprehensive set of student success initiatives, called Cougar Commitment, focused around the integration of the following: pre-college and college readiness, first-year success, college persistence, holistic college support, and career readiness. Among the success stories is Rise Academy, a summer bridge program designed to provide new students with an early and supportive introduction to college with incoming freshmen in that program receiving their first year at college tuition-free. Approximately 50% of incoming freshmen in the 2021-2022 academic year were in Rise Academy. On top of extensive scholarship support for new and continuing students, CSU offers in-state tuition rates for all students in the United States.

CSU graduates are highly sought after with a 100 percent job placement rate for graduates in nursing, occupational therapy, and pharmacy, as well as education. CSU has forged inspiring new public and private sector partnerships with some of the state’s leading organizations including Abbott Labs, Leo Burnett, Hyatt Corporation, Northwestern Medicine, Pfizer, Discover Financial Services, Relativity Partners, and Spark Foundry. These partnerships offer students direct access to experiential learning opportunities that complement the classroom and often translate into paid internships and career paths.


”Equity, as a value, is at the heart and soul of what Chicago State is all about.” – Zaldwaynaka Scott, Esq. President, Chicago State University

Chicago State University transforms students’ lives by innovative teaching, research, and community partnerships through excellence in ethical leadership, cultural enhancement, economic development, and justice. CSU promotes excellence, ethical leadership, entrepreneurship, and social and environmental justice. CSU will embrace, engage, educate, propel, and elevate our students and community to transform lives locally and globally.


Zaldwaynaka (“Z”) Scott, Esq., was unanimously elected by the Board of Trustees to serve as the 12th permanent president of Chicago State University and assumed the role on July 1, 2018. President Scott oversaw the development and advancement of the CSU Strategic Plan 2020-2025, ensuring that the institution will lead with the mission of transformation for students’ lives through innovation and excellence in ethical leadership. She also supervised the launch of a historic re-brand of the University, putting into motion new brand assets and campaigns to revitalize the institution’s reputation and raise awareness among new stakeholders. President Scott is also a well-known advocate for equity in higher education, having formed and co-chaired the Equity Working Group, a body of leaders from across the education, public, private, philanthropic, and community development sectors to formulate an action plan for addressing Black student access and success in Illinois higher education.

Prior to her current role, President Scott was an equity partner in a national law firm with an international practice that focused on corporate internal investigations, counseling clients on regulatory compliance and crisis management. She also spent more than 16 years as a federal criminal prosecutor in the position of Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Illinois, where she served as Chief of the General Crimes Section. Upon leaving the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Illinois State Senate confirmed her appointment as Illinois’ first Executive Inspector General for the Agencies of the Governor and its public universities. In this role, she created an independent executive branch state agency from its inception, developed the United States’ first statewide ethics training platform for state government employees, and created a protocol for the investigation of claims of misconduct, waste, fraud, and abuse.

President Scott taught at some of the nation’s most competitive law schools, including Northwestern University School of Law, The University of Chicago Law School, and UIC John Marshall Law School. The Indiana University Maurer School of Law honored her with its Distinguished Service Award (2012) and selected her for induction into the Law School’s Alumni Hall of Fame (2019).

President Scott is a highly sought-after speaker and lecturer on topics related to leadership, crisis management, trial advocacy, ethics, and compliance. She has received numerous awards honoring her service from organizations including the American Bar Association, the Chicago Bar Association, the Cook County Bar Association, La Rabida Children’s Hospital, and the Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Chicago. She was recognized by Crain’s Chicago Business as one of the Most Powerful Women in Chicago Business (2018). She is a member of the Economic Club of Chicago and the Commercial Club of Chicago. President Scott’s peers rank her among the nation’s top lawyers, resulting in her inclusion in Chambers and Partners USA, U.S. News Best Lawyers, Women in Business Law Guide, The Best Lawyers in America, Leading Lawyers 2015, Top 10 Women in Criminal Defense, and Illinois Super Lawyers.

As a distinguished business & civic leader, President Scott has played an influential role in the Chicago community for over 30 years. She is on the Board of Directors for the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital Medical Center where she co-chairs the subcommittee on diversity; the Board of Trustees at the US Coast Guard Academy and the Board of Directors of Just the Beginning, a nonprofit organization devoted to improving the diverse pipeline in the legal field. In the past, President Scott has served as Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Chicago Housing Authority, Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees for Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law Board of Visitors among others.

President Scott holds a Juris Doctor from Indiana University Maurer School of Law and a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

Role Summary

This is an exciting opportunity for an innovative, leader to join a historic, Black, student-centered, public university and play a key role in its evolution and continued success. Reporting directly to President Scott, the General Counsel is the chief legal affairs officer of the University and serves as a key member of the Executive Leadership team. The General Counsel serves as a trusted advisor and provides legal advice and representation to the President, Board of Trustees, and other affiliated agencies, senior administrators and executives, academic officers, faculty, and staff. The ideal candidate will bring a distinguished record that commands the respect of the university community. The next General Counsel will possess the following:

  • Juris Doctorate degree from an ABA-accredited law school.
  • Minimum of 10 years of progressive and successful legal /business experience, including years working in higher ed, government, private law practice, or business.
  • Member of the Illinois Bar or eligible to practice law in Illinois within one year or less of hire.

Primary Responsibilities

  • Provide legal and strategic advice to the President, the Board of Trustees, and the College community in support of the educational mission of the institution.
  • Lead the Legal Affairs Department consisting of two Associate Generals Counsel, a Director of Compliance (shared with legal and finance), a Contract Administration Paralegal, and an Executive Assistant.
  • Deliver legal services and advise College offices in a broad range of areas, including but not limited to the following: compliance with local, state, and federal laws (including Title IX and FERPA); risk management; labor and employment law; preparation and review of contracts; litigation before courts and administrative agencies; policy development including student and faculty conduct; public records; vendor and supplier management and real estate development.
  • Manage risk by pragmatically considering and evaluating the extent of the university’s exposure in various situations as they arrive. General Counsel will also appreciate that educating colleagues across the University about how to assess and discuss risk is critical for CSU to thrive. In this environment, the General Counsel will prioritize the weighing of risks over minimizing risks at all costs.
  • Steward university initiatives in partnership with the Executive Leadership team working closely with the President, CFO and Provost to have substantial and lasting positive impact. The General Counsel will engage in managing significant change as the institution continues to explore new ways to best fulfill its mission. The successful candidate will proactively identify and evaluate legal implications for the university and other constituents in the quickly evolving higher education environment.
Key Selection Criteria

Professional Requirements

  • Familiarity with the broad range of legal issues related to higher education, including but not limited to accreditation, employment and benefits, statutory and regulatory compliance including Title IX and FERPA, cybersecurity and data protection, academic affairs, and student life. Prior higher education or government experience is a plus.
  • Experience with contracting law and litigation including vendor/supplier management. Real estate transaction experience and a deal-making mind-set considered a plus. Ability to work with outside counsel.
  • A track record of interacting successfully with senior level executives.
  • Evidence of a strong success scaling a team with ability to impact operational efficiencies.
  • Evidence of a strong, energetic leadership style providing direction and coordination across an organization

Leadership Skills/Personal Characteristics

  • Problem Solving and Decision-Making Expertise. Possesses a superior ability as a problem solver by assembling and analyzing rules, laws, and statutes effectively; drawing conclusions; and making decisions that will ultimately become the basis for CSU decisions.
  • Excellent Communication Skills. Conveys complex legal advice and options effectively. Strong written, verbal, and listening skills. Possess willingness to share knowledge and encourages partners to provide input and feedback where appropriate.
  • Relationship Builder. Creates a collaborative work environment by actively demonstrating respect for others; sharing and seeking colleagues input on ideas; and taking the initiative to develop effective networks.
  • Superior interpersonal skills. Works well with people at all levels of an organization, across a diverse range of education and social backgrounds. Has a strong track record of developing and maintaining relationships with internal and external stakeholders.
  • Outstanding personal integrity and honesty. Serves as the university’s chief ethics officer and models exemplary behavior in this regard.
  • Gravitas and Presence. Demonstrates the ability to successfully represent the university to the Board of Trustees, government officials, potential corporate sponsors, large donors, and other key constituents.
Equal Employment and Educational Opportunity

Chicago State University is committed to having an inclusive campus community where all members are treated with dignity and respect. As an Equal Opportunity Employer, the College does not discriminate in its hiring or employment practices on the basis of gender/gender-identity, sex, race or ethnicity, color, national origin, religion, age, disability, veteran’s status, genetic information, family or marital status, sexual orientation, or any other protected class.

Search Team

Denielle Pemberton-Heard
Chief Legal Advisor

Robin Goolsbee
Managing Director

Caitlyn Speller
Research Associate

Page Wahl
Executive Assistant


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