Rafael Sakr LL.M. understands the importance of change on both the micro and macro levels. Growing up in São Paulo, Brazil, his mother, a social worker, encouraged him to stand up for his ideals. “I don’t wait for someone to tell me what to do,” he says. “I’m a pragmatic and problem-solving person. I try to go and get what I want.”
While studying law at the University of São Paulo, Sakr realized that he could make a real difference, both in the larger community and in his academic environs.
One of his first endeavors at the university was to found a student-run organization focused on public interest work. “The idea was to engage a specific social problem and try to teach people to use the law in their favor,” Sakr explains. The goal of the group’s initial project was to prevent the destruction of an impoverished neighborhood that was built on municipal land. Through legal outreach and advocacy, the students helped save 70 families’ homes.
Sakr promoted change within the University of São Paulo, as well. Dismayed by a shortage of mentorship opportunities on campus, he founded the school’s first student center for international studies. The organization, which was initially comprised of 15 members, quickly grew to include more than 100.
After two years spent working at the Brazilian stock exchange, Sakr felt called to return to academia, where he could further pursue a love for research and teaching. As a student of capital markets at the Law School, he continues to aim for large-scale change: Sakr hopes to foster legal scholarship that will help economists build institutions more resistant to worldwide systemic risk.
Sakr has been accepted to the Visiting Scholars program for the fall of 2012 at Columbia Law School, and after this, he says, he will apply for the Law School's J.S.D. program in the fall. Ultimately, Sakr says he would like to return to Brazil to teach law, and to aid the Brazilian government in developing its own financial reform agenda.