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Cleveland State University Faculty



J.D., Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University

M.B.A. Finance, George Washington University

B.S. Economics, Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania



A national thought leader on transformational change in higher education for the past 20 years, Harlan Sands now brings his passion, energy and experience to the faculty at CSU College of Law. President of Cleveland State University from June 2018 through April 2022, Sands’ extensive background in higher education finance, student success, change management and innovative partnerships helped CSU expand and enhance its hallmark Engaged Learning approach to focused student engagement and progression. His vision and action plan for the University’s future are embodied in the CSU 2.0 Plan, an aggressive, growth-oriented set of goals designed to attract more students and faculty, advance student success, develop new programs and build new partnerships for Cleveland’s only urban research institution.

Prior to joining CSU, Sands served as Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer for the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. At Wharton, he oversaw eight administrative and finance divisions and helped lead the design of two major building projects: the new Wharton Academic Research Building, a $70 million project to expand research and student collaboration and the Venture Lab, a new interactive facility to advance entrepreneurship and innovation.

Before joining the University of Pennsylvania, Sands served as Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer for the University of Louisville and Vice Provost for Administration and Quality Improvement for the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he oversaw university investments in academic, student and research operations.

Sands began his academic career at Florida International University, serving first as a member of the faculty in the Department of Criminal Justice and then later as an Associate Dean and Research Center Director. As a faculty member at FIU, Sands taught a wide variety of courses for both undergraduate and graduate students, including criminal law, criminal procedure, judicial policymaking, justice and the constitution and juvenile delinquency.

His legal career began as an Assistant Public Defender in the 11th Judicial Circuit in Miami, Florida, in 1995, where he served four years as a trial attorney handling felony, misdemeanor and juvenile cases, during which time he handled over 1000 cases total including over 50 jury trials and 40 bench trials.

Sands earned his undergraduate degree in economics from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, where he attended through an ROTC scholarship. While on full-time duty with the U.S. Navy, he earned an MBA in finance from George Washington University and a Juris Doctor from George Mason University by attending night classes. His decade of active service with the Navy included serving as a Surface Warfare Officer on the USS Guam and several tours of duty as a Naval Intelligence Officer. He received two Naval Commendation Medals during Operation Desert Storm.

He is a native of Wantagh, Long Island, New York. He and his wife Lynn have two sons, Samson and AJ .