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Kahlil Williams

Minerva’s Match

By Joy Y. Wang

Winter 2010

While working as a congressional fellow in 2006, Kahlil Williams ’11 found out that he had the characteristics of an owl. “We had to take personality tests that determined what kind of animal you are,” Williams explains. “I scored off the charts as an owl, which is supposed to show that I’m really analytical.”

The test result surprised him, but in retrospect, it was right on target. “I like to think things through, and I am intellectually curious,” says Williams, who served in the Washington, D.C., office of Pennsylvania Congressman Chaka Fattah three years ago. Academia provided the perfect chance to emphasize his analytic strengths. Now he is simultaneously pursuing a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Pennsylvania and a J.D. from Columbia Law School.

Williams came to the Law School in part because of Professor Nathaniel Persily,
who was his adviser at UPenn.

“Nate is a close friend of mine and at the top of the field in election law,” he says. “I’m particularly interested in whether or not we should move toward a color-blind society. It’s an issue at the heart of election law and society itself.”

The topic is also the focus of Williams’ Ph.D. dissertation, which he will finish this winter—in whatever time he has between his responsibilities as a student and a member of the Columbia Law Review. “I’ve spent some long nights writing and working with election data,” he says with a smile. “But it’s a labor of love.”

Photographed by David Yellen