Four Columbia Law Students Receive Human Rights Institute Inaugural Commendation for Leadership and Commitment in Human Rights
New York, May 21, 2015 – The inaugural Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute Commendation for Leadership and Commitment in Human Rights goes to four remarkable graduating law students – Alison Borochoff-Porte ’15, Douglas Cantwell ’15, Bassam Khawaja ’15, and Stephanie Persson ’15.
(from left) Bassam Khawaja ’15, Alison Borochoff-Porte ’15,
Douglas Cantwell ’15
The commendation recognizes students who have demonstrated exceptional dedication to human rights at Columbia Law School and to the human rights field. Honorees are selected based on their commitment to advancing human rights opportunities at Columbia, engagement in mentorship of new students into human rights, activities undertaken in and out of the law school to advance human rights, and commitment to a career in human rights and to advancing the human rights field.
The Human Rights Institute – including faculty co-directors Sarah Cleveland and Sarah Knuckey, executive director Risa Kaufman, associate director JoAnn Ward, clinical teaching fellow Benjamin Hoffman, senior director Nathalie Weizmann, and program manager Greta Moseson – congratulate Alison, Douglas, Bassam, and Stephanie for their extraordinary achievements.
During her time at Columbia Law School, Alison Borochoff-Porte ’15 significantly contributed to the expansion of human rights opportunities for other students, including during her co-presidency of the student group Rightslink. She explored the intersection of human rights, health, and environmental justice as a Human Rights Internship Fellow, travelled to China as an Oldham Fellow where she focused on Chinese immigration law, and was a member of the Human Rights Clinic where she co-led research on the human rights impacts of mining in Papua New Guinea. This past year, Borochoff-Porte also served as executive managing director of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review. After graduating, she will be joining EarthRights International in Thailand as a Leebron Fellow. Her work with EarthRights will focus on creating a framework of recommendations for communities affected by development and engaging corporate and government actors to discuss their views on environmental and social impact assessments of development projects.
Douglas Cantwell ’15 immersed himself in international law and human rights while at Columbia, and consistently demonstrated academic excellence. He served as the external president of the Columbia Society of International Law and was the Head Solicitations Editor for the Journal for Transnational Law in his 3L year. Cantwell expanded opportunities for all students to gain international human rights field experience through spring break caravans, including by organizing a highly successful 2014 trip to Myanmar to work with the organization Justice for All and by founding and coaching the International Criminal Court Moot Court in 2013-14. Cantwell also joined the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project Spring Break Caravan in Ammam, Jordan during his 2L year. In 2013-14, Cantwell participated in the Human Rights Clinic where he worked on U.S. accountability for human rights and the human rights impacts of natural resource extraction projects in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Next year, Cantwell will join the Navy Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps, where he will work on issues of international humanitarian law.
Alison Borochoff-Porte ’15, Stephanie Persson ’15
Bassam Khawaja ’15 has made numerous invaluable contributions to human rights at Columbia, including through the Law School’s student-led Human Rights Working Group, which worked to deepen support for and expand opportunities on campus for students interested in becoming human rights lawyers. He has also advised and mentored many 1L and 2L students interested in pursuing human rights at Columbia. He excelled in his academic international and human rights law courses, and served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review in 2014-15, and, together with Borochoff-Porte, served as co-president of the student human rights group Rightslink in 2014-15. Khawaja interned with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Beirut, working to improve the process by which Syrians renew their residency with the Lebanese government, and also interned with Human Rights Watch in Beirut, to document human rights violations in Lebanon and Syria. This year, Khawaja traveled to Myanmar to conduct human rights trainings on using a human rights law framework to identify and respond to human rights abuses, and as a member of the Human Rights Clinic, Khawaja co-led a project aimed at improving transparency and accountability for U.S. drone strikes. Next year, Khawaja will be the Leonard H. Sandler Fellow at Human Rights Watch.
While at Columbia, Stephanie Persson ’15 took on leadership roles to expand human rights opportunities for students at Columbia, and frequently sought out opportunities to work in human rights, especially children’s rights and juvenile justice. She was often sought out as a mentor by other students, and dedicated herself to strengthening the student human rights community at Columbia. Persson worked as an intern with the Juvenile Rights Practice division at the Legal Aid Society in New York where she focused on child welfare and delinquency cases. She spent her 2L summer in Beijing, working with International Bridges to Justice where she researched Chinese criminal procedure law regarding juveniles. Persson was also selected as a Salzburg Culter Fellow based on strong academic performance and interest in international law. Persson was research chair for the student human rights group Rightslink, and was a member of the Human Rights Clinic, where she co-led work to monitor company responses to human rights violations. She was selected in 2015 to be the Greater China Public Interest Fellow, and after graduation, she will work in Hong Kong as a human rights lawyer.
The Human Rights Institute serves as the focal point of international human rights education, scholarship, and practice at Columbia Law School. Follow us on Twitter @CLShumanrights.
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