2022 Racial and Social Justice Fellows

The five fellowship recipients—all members of the Class of 2023—are dedicated to pursuing careers in social and racial justice.

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Now in their second year, the Racial and Social Justice Fellowships were established by Columbia Law’s Anti-Racism Steering Committee as part of its efforts to evaluate, coordinate, and strengthen the Law School’s anti-racism efforts.

Fellowships are open to 2Ls who wish to pursue careers in racial justice or 2L students of color who wish to pursue careers in social justice. Drawing on their experiences, their backgrounds, and their commitment to using their legal careers to create positive change, the 2022 fellows are reimagining justice and dedicated to supporting marginalized communities. 

Learn more about this year’s recipients below and read more about the origins of the program and the inaugural cohort.

Interviews have been edited and condensed.

Terresa Adams Headshot

Terresa Adams ’23

Terresa Adams ’23 has used her time at Columbia Law to continue to develop and shape a career devoted to women’s and children’s rights. She graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a B.A. in political science. 

What type of work are you interested in pursuing?

I’m interested in international human rights, specifically women’s and children’s rights (WCR) and government. Last summer, I interned with the United States Agency for International Development. The assignments that I enjoyed the most centered around the agency’s initiatives for WCR. I am working towards a career that will ultimately lead me to help craft foreign policy that addresses the unique issues facing these marginalized groups. 

How did you develop an interest in human rights work?

Before beginning law school, I served as a director of my local Zonta chapter. [Zonta International is a human rights organization focused on improving the lives of women and children worldwide.] The initiative closest to my heart is our partnership with the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking (NJCAHT) and the birthing kits we assembled for women in a rural area in Kenya. I credit my interest in human rights, specifically women’s rights, to my volunteer experiences throughout college, and with Zonta International. 

What motivated you to apply to be a Racial and Social Justice fellow? 

It is challenging to navigate a public interest/service career during law school, as many people know. It is an especially difficult journey for those who identify as first-generation Caribbean American women. This identity typically comes with expectations and pressures that may be hard to balance with a public interest career. I was inspired to apply to this fellowship to share my journey with others, especially those with a similar identity as me and who are interested in public service.

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Arabella Colombier ’23

Arabella Colombier ’23 is deeply committed to environmental justice, and, more broadly, the “fight for justice, care, and liberation for all.” Colombier has a B.A. in philosophy from McGill University.

What type of work are you interested in pursuing?

I hope to use movement lawyering, community organizing, and public education to support BIPOC-led climate justice efforts. I am particularly interested in supporting struggles against extractive projects that accelerate the climate crisis and challenging the surveillance, repression, and criminalization of land defenders and water protectors.  

What motivated you to apply to be a Racial and Social Justice fellow?

I applied to be a Racial and Social Justice fellow because of the financial assistance and institutional support that the fellowship provides. I am grateful that the committee recognizes my commitment to racial and social justice and I am honored that it believes I can contribute meaningfully to this work.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I am deeply grateful to receive this fellowship and appreciate the support of my professors who have guided me through law school. I want to thank Professor Alexis Hoag for enriching my law school experience through the abolition practicum and movement lawyering reading group, Professor Elora Mukherjee for teaching me how to be a better advocate for clients, and Professor Bernard Harcourt for providing me opportunities to explore my interest in theory and praxis and to work on Thunderhawk v. County of Morton, a case arising out of the #NoDAPL [Dakota Access Pipeline] movement. 

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Nkechi N. Erondu ’23

Nkechi N. Erondu ’23 is passionate about reimagining the criminal legal system through a transformative justice lens and plans to use her law degree “to mitigate the harm and violence that the criminal legal system exacts on Black communities.” She earned a B.A. in African and African American studies and political science from Stanford University.

What type of work are you interested in pursuing?

I am dedicated to using my legal training to engage in critical harm reduction efforts while also reimagining a criminal legal system that employs policies and practices rooted in transformative justice. Immediately upon graduating, I plan to do client-centered, post-conviction, and appellate defense work. Longer term, I hope to be in a position to fight for broad, systemic policy change in the criminal legal system. I am looking forward to using the law to dismantle our oppressive and archaic criminal legal system by advocating for and centering the human dignity of Black people.

How do you think the fellowship will help you achieve your career goals?

Being a Racial and Social Justice fellow provides me with the financial support necessary to sustain a public interest career. The fellowship also lessens the financial burdens that come with being a student, freeing up more emotional and mental energy to apply for fellowships and jobs.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about what this fellowship means to you?

The fellowship helps dispel the myth that a career dedicated to racial and social justice must be self-sacrificial. I feel blessed to have received such support, and I hope that many others also benefit from this fellowship in the future.

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Anna Belle Newport ’23

Anna Belle Newport ’23 plans to serve as a public defender representing parents accused of abuse and neglect in the family court system. She earned her B.A. in political science from the University of Chicago.

How did you develop an interest in family law?

I came to law school after working as a bilingual advocate and crisis counselor for survivors of domestic violence, trafficking, and sexual assault with the Arab American Family Support Center at the Brooklyn Family Justice Center. . . . Advocating for my clients enmeshed in family court proceedings, I saw firsthand the lack of autonomy that many parents have in determining their own family’s needs and the ways in which the state punishes families that do not adhere to a white, hetero-centric, nuclear family structure. 

How do you plan to draw on these interests as a practicing lawyer?

Today’s family regulation system excessively surveils parents of color and blames them for perceived parenting deficiencies, as opposed to tackling poverty’s structural roots, which is the cause of most neglect charges. I am pursuing a legal career because I believe in a vision of family law that does not police poverty, but instead invests in providing material support to parents and caretakers.

How do you think the fellowship will help you achieve your career goals?

By lessening the amount of debt I graduate with, [this fellowship is] allowing me to prioritize the most impactful racial justice work in the family law realm.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I’d like to thank Devi Patel for encouraging me to apply, as well as the professors and practitioners at Columbia who have continued to show me the importance of family defense work.

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Imani Thornton ’23

Imani Thornton’s areas of interest are reparational justice and dismantling the prison industrial complex. Imani earned her B.A. in politics from Princeton University and an M.A. in African American studies from the University of California, Los Angeles.

What motivated you to apply to be a Racial and Social Justice fellow?

It is no secret that while public interest work comes with a multitude of benefits, the financial aspects can be particularly challenging. . . . This fellowship will afford me more peace of mind as I endeavor towards the legal career of my dreams—defending those whom the carceral system specifically targets due to their intersectional identities. 

What type of work are you interested in pursuing?

My mission is to give back to my Chicagoland community by doing either public defense or civil rights work. 

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I am very grateful for this fellowship. It means the world to me.