In retrospect, Farhang Heydari ’11 admits that he sometimes courted danger during his travels through Asia and the Middle East in 2007. (There is no universal sign for “do not enter,” he notes.) But after graduating from Harvard in three years with a degree in government, Heydari knew he needed to see more of the world to better understand the public policy issues he studied.
Prior to law school, Heydari spent a year living in Abu Dhabi. There, he led 20 high school students on a Habitat for Humanity trip to Bangladesh, before embarking on his multi-country trek to Laos, Syria, Jordan, and Turkey. “My time abroad affirmed my faith in humanity,” he says.
Once at Columbia, the well-traveled, first-generation Iranian-American broadened his understanding of complex social problems by taking part in both the Law School’s Criminal Appellate Externship and the Challenging the Consequences of Mass Incarceration Clinic. He also served as the editor-in-chief of the Columbia Law Review and, along with his hardworking staff, dedicated countless hours towards crafting a publication that regularly influences leading academics and lawyers.
This past summer, Heydari followed in the footsteps of many Columbia Law School students by serving as a legal intern at the renowned NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, where he worked on issues involving employment discrimination and the Voting Rights Act. In the fall, Heydari will serve as a clerk for Judge Diana G. Motz at the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Baltimore, Md.
Heydari recently received news that he is the Law School’s Outstanding Public Interest Student of the Year, and he plans to work in the field following his clerkship. “People want to help [each other] but often don’t know what to do,” he says of his decision to pursue a public interest legal career. “The reality is, legal structures influence everything.”