Features

Marc Fried – Washburn University  

Providing educational opportunities for the underserved 

Marc Fried, the general counsel at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, is crucial in steering the institution toward its mission of inclusivity and expanded educational access. His multifaceted legal background, cultivated in the dynamic landscapes of large cities, positions him strategically to not only respond to the legal needs of the university but also to anticipate and proactively address the evolving demands of the diverse community it serves. 

Marc Fried | General Counsel | Washburn University  

Marc Fried | General Counsel | Washburn University

With a commitment deeply rooted in advancing the cause of inclusivity, Fried’s impact reverberates across the university. His extensive experience in law, particularly within urban settings, equips him with a unique perspective that goes beyond the confines of traditional legal roles. Fried collaborates across various university units, contributing to developing transformative policies by offering not only legal advice but also social and political considerations to foster a more inclusive and accessible educational experience. 

“At a young age, my mother introduced me to the word “empathy” and what it means to be empathetic. Hearing and understanding the perspectives of all persons involved helps me assist Washburn in achieving positive resolutions in many situations, from language disputes in a contract to policy language agreement in a shared governance setting to addressing claims raised by an employee or student,” Fried says.  

Having a plan 

One of Fried’s notable achievements is his collaboration with various units within the university to develop policies and procedures that align with the institution’s commitment to inclusivity.  Fried appreciates his colleague’s enthusiasm for creating pathways for students and employees from various backgrounds and experiences. That enthusiasm, however, needs to be tempered at times so that a legally compliant pathway can be found.  While Fried was not directly involved, the Together We Thrive initiative announced in May 2023 exemplifies Washburn’s commitment to accessibility. This initiative includes the Shawnee County Thrives Scholarship and the Shawnee County Promise, which provide financial assistance and tuition-free pathways to students who meet specific criteria. The program’s impact is shown in the increased enrollment in Fall 2023, showcasing the positive outcomes of strategic initiatives. 

Marc Fried | General Counsel | Washburn University  

Despite the challenges, particularly in contract review, Fried’s focus remains on enhancing the efficiency of legal processes. He emphasizes the importance of a coordinated compliance program and foresees the potential benefits of streamlining operations while meeting compliance requirements.   

Fried has implemented several processes to improve contract review, including allowing for electronic copies of agreements to be submitted, creating a separate email to receive contracts and coding for Washburn template agreements to allow for faster review. Fried is currently a member of a team that will be selecting and implementing a new contract management system utilizing AI. 

Improving the college experience 

Fried is instrumental in shaping and creating a better college experience for students, emphasizing the university’s commitment to providing access and greater opportunities for a diverse student body.  

Marc Fried | General Counsel | Washburn University  

The historical commitment of Washburn University to offer education without discrimination, dating back to its origins in 1865 as Lincoln College, forms the foundation for a college experience centered on diversity and equal opportunities. Washburn’s dedication to meeting students where they are, demonstrated by its open-access institution status, emphasizes the university’s commitment to helping students successfully navigate their educational journeys. 

In the legal domain, Fried is exploring ways of incorporating technology to enhance the student experience.  

“While the legal department is considering using AI in research projects and implementing a new contract management system, the overarching goal is to streamline processes and create a more efficient and supportive environment for students and faculty alike,” Fried explains.  

Fried’s involvement in creating a better college experience supports initiatives that enhance the work environment for faculty and staff. Washburn’s commitment to providing benefits such as tuition waivers, access to wellness facilities, and parental leave programs contributes to a positive and supportive atmosphere, fostering a holistic experience for everyone associated with the university. 

Finding a way to education 

Pursuing a double major in accounting and business administration at the University of Kansas, Fried found inspiration in the Big Eight accounting firms and their consulting arms. The prospect of combining accounting with law to navigate the burgeoning consulting field captivated Fried’s aspirations. 

Marc Fried | General Counsel | Washburn University  

However, Fried took an unexpected turn when the challenges of preparing for the CPA exam during his first year of law school prompted a shift in focus. Originally envisioned as a stepping stone to a consulting career, law school led Fried to discover a passion for litigation—an avenue he hadn’t anticipated when embarking on his legal education. 

Following his tenure as a public defender and prosecutor in Jefferson County, Fried’s professional journey unfolded with diverse experiences. He served as a county counselor for over four years, acquiring invaluable insights into public contracting requirements and other legal intricacies. 

A pivotal moment took place when Fried joined a large metropolitan law firm. Working with a client in the public higher education sector, he became the go-to legal advisor, opening the door to working in-house for a higher education institution. This unexpected trajectory began his enduring commitment to the field, where he has thrived for over 15 years. 

In June 2014, Fried joined Washburn University’s legal department, eventually rising to general counsel in July 2022. His journey is not merely a testament to professional growth but also a narrative woven with personal connections and community engagement. 

“I am lucky to wake up every morning and go to a job that brings me so much joy. It is always a great day to be an Ichabod,” Fried exclaims.  

View this feature in the Vanguard Spring IV 2024 Edition here.

Published on: May 30, 2024

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