Devi Rao ’10 Named Skadden Fellow, Will Work at National Women’s Law Center

Devi Rao ’10 Named Skadden Fellow, Will Work at National Women's Law Center


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New York, Dec. 28, 2010—When Devi Rao ’10 was told recently she had been named as one of the Skadden Fellows for 2011, she was very excited, even if that was not immediately apparent.
Rao, left,  received a call in San Diego from Susan Butler Plum, director of the Skadden Fellowship Foundation, at the same time she was battling laryngitis.
“She thought she had woken me up. I was trying to scream, but nothing came out,” Rao said.
The highly sought-after Skadden fellowships are awarded for two years. They provide funding for graduating law students who want to devote their careers to civil and human rights, as well as those who want to help the poor, the elderly, and homeless populations. Skadden pays the fellows’ salaries and all fringe benefits to which an employee at the sponsoring organization would be entitled.
“It’s a great program. It had been something I had been thinking about for a while,” Rao said.
A former editor of the Columbia Law Review, Rao will work next fall at the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, where she will work on ways to improve protection against gender-based bullying. One way will be to work with school districts and advocacy groups to enhance enforcement of Title IX, a federal education law that bans discrimination on the basis of sex.
Title IX has been most prominently used to ensure girls and women have equal access to athletics in schools and colleges. However, Rao said it applied to all aspects of academia, including the emerging problem of gender-based bullying and cyber-bullying.
“Teachers don’t always know where the line is that’s being crossed. It’s easy to see a student being bullied and say it’s normal student behavior,” Rao said. “But it happens all too often and schools need to know that Title IX protects against this.”
As part of the requirements for the fellowship Rao, who currently clerks for Judge Margaret McKeown of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, had to first have the National Women’s Law Center agree to sponsor her project. It was a good fit, as Rao worked on women’s rights and gender equality projects throughout law school.
Besides the law review, Rao was also on the staff of the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, interned at Legal Momentum, a women’s rights group, and spent a summer working at a small civil-rights law firm. Before she started at the Law School, Rao knew that a career in public-interest law was in store for her.
“I feel very lucky. Columbia has a good loan payment assistance program. It gave me the ability to make the choices I wanted,” Rao said.
Since the Skadden Fellowship Foundation was established in 1988, 56 Law School alumni have been named fellows.
Columbia Law School, founded in 1858, stands at the forefront of legal education and of the law in a global society. Columbia Law School joins its traditional strengths in international and comparative law, constitutional law, administrative law, business law and human rights law with pioneering work in the areas of intellectual property, digital technology, sexuality and gender, criminal, national security, and environmental law.