Professor Profile: A Conversation with Visiting Professor Melissa Murray

Melissa-Murray(1)
UC Berkeley School of Law

Professor Melissa Murray is joining the faculty of NYU Law for the 2017-18 academic year on leave from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, where she served as interim dean. Murray’s research focuses on the roles that criminal law and family law play in articulating the legal parameters of intimate life, and encompasses such topics as marriage and its alternatives, the legal regulation of sex and sexuality, the marriage equality debate, and the legal recognition of caregiving.

While Murray is only teaching one class during her visit to NYU Law, The Commentator still wanted to give students the chance to get to know more about one of Berkeley Law’s most beloved professors. Over the summer, Professor Murray answered our questions about her relationship with New York City, her family’s Hamilton obsession, and what she’ll miss most about Berkeley (spoiler alert: she doesn’t like socks very much).

The Commentator: We are excited to have you join us at NYU Law for the semester. In what ways are you hoping to engage with communities here in New York City? Are there things you’re looking forward to working on while you’re here? Some non-law related activities you’re looking forward to doing while you’re here?

MM: I love New York City—I was born in Brooklyn and lived in the city after law school.  I’m looking forward to learning from the terrific faculty at NYU, as well as faculty at the area law schools. I’m also excited about having more opportunities to collaborate with organizations like the Center for Reproductive Rights and the National Women’s Law Center—it’s so much easier when you’re on the same coast!  In my free time, I’m looking forward to introducing my kids to the city.  They’re dying to see “Hamilton” on Broadway.  I hope they’re saving their allowances.

What has been your favorite part of teaching at Berkeley? What will you miss most about Berkeley while you’re in New York?

MM: My favorite part of teaching at Berkeley are the fantastic students! I will miss my friends, the California weather, and not wearing socks while I am in New York.

Walk us through an ideal day off—what would you do with a whole day of free time?

MM: Did I mention I have two children under the age of 10?  I haven’t had a free day since 2007.  But if I did, I would sleep late and not make anyone breakfast.  Nor would I bring anyone’s violin to school because he/she forgot it. I’d probably just veg out and read.  

What are you reading right now? Have you read anything over the past year you’d like to share with students?

MM: I just finished reading “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which I loved.  It grapples with questions of race and identity in a way that I found really insightful and illuminating as a first-generation American.  Right now, I’m reading “A Kind of Freedom” by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, which is amazing.  Full disclosure: Margaret was my student back in 2007.  She was an amazing lawyer, and she’s an even better novelist.  This is a fantastic debut novel!

What is an album or song that you’ve been spending a lot of time listening to lately?

MM: My whole family is obsessed with the “Hamilton” soundtrack.  You really have not lived until you’ve listened to your six-year old belting out, “SON OF A WHORE AND A SCOTSMAN” at top volume. Obviously, we’re terrific parents.

Do you have a go-to recipe to share?

MM: I hate cooking, but when I have to make something impressive, I make Southern Living’s Million Dollar Poundcake, which is made with an insane amount of butter. It’s always a hit, but after eating it, you’ll have a food baby.

So then—the obvious follow-up question: cookie, pie, or cake?

MM: Cupcakes. Always with real buttercream frosting.

What television show that you’d consider a “guilty pleasure” have you been watching lately?

MM: I know it’s anti-intellectual to admit this, but I LOVE TV. I like to watch late at night after my kids have gone to bed and I’m doing mindless tasks (laundry, etc.). Right now, I have a bunch of different shows in rotation: “Game of Thrones,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “black-ish,” “Master of None,” “Big Little Lies,” “Insecure,” “Being Mary Jane,” and some BBC stuff like “Victoria” and “The Great British Bake Off,” which I watch with my daughter.

Is there anything else that you’d like to share with NYU Law students that perhaps you haven’t been able to say to us yet?

MM: I’m really looking forward to getting to know you and your school!

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