Inaugural Public Interest/Public Service Fellows Cohort
The program, offered through Social Justice Initiatives (SJI), brings together and supports a community of students seeking to use their legal training to effect positive change in society.
Designed for students committed to pursuing public interest or public service careers upon graduation, the three-year Public Interest/Public Service (PI/PS) Fellows Program provides students with specialized opportunities and resources for exploring public interest and government lawyering in the United States and abroad. PI/PS Fellows also become part of a close-knit community built on their passion for serving the public good. Meet the impressive members of the inaugural class of PI/PS Fellows below.
Annel Becerra Rodriguez
Annel is interested in the intersection of criminal justice and immigration reform, specifically the disparate impacts of overcriminalization on immigrant communities and undocumented individuals. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a B.A. in legal studies and Chicano studies. As an immigrant and a member of a mixed-status home, immigration, housing, and employment issues were a constant in Annel’s life, but affordable legal advocates were scarce. After graduating from college, Annel worked as a paralegal at an immigration and criminal defense nonprofit where she saw firsthand the immediate impact of legal advocacy and direct services work. Annel spent her 1L summer working with the California Appellate Project on the Unrepresented Condemned Inmate Team. As a 2L, she will be working with the Bronx Defenders and the Paralegal Pathways Project. She is also a staff editor on the Columbia Law Review. Annel is the first in her family to attend law school.
Katja is interested in a host of legal issues that affect immigrant communities, including immigration law, workers’ rights, and gender justice. Katja majored in political science and economics at Yale University. Before starting law school, she worked in several fields relating to global migration. After working on pro bono immigration cases at a Washington, D.C. law firm, she volunteered at a refugee community center in Calais, France. She researched organized crime in Central America with InSight Crime and studied trends in Syrian refugee returns with iMMAP. For her 1L summer, Katja worked with the immigration legal team at Make the Road New York. At Columbia Law School, Katja is a participant in the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic. She serves as co-president of both the Society for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and the Student Public Interest Network. Growing up in an immigrant household, Katja was exposed to language learning early in her education, and she hopes to use her fluency in Russian, French, and Spanish in her advocacy efforts.
Bianca Larez Chavez
Bianca cares deeply about public defense and prison reform. She graduated from Stanford University with a B.A. in comparative studies in race and ethnicity. Before law school, Bianca worked as a field organizer with Hillary for America. She also spent two years teaching middle school history in South Boston. Bianca spent her 1L summer working with Texas Defender Services, a group specializing in capital murder representation. She also conducted research with Elizabeth Scott, Harold R. Medina Professor of Law and Vice Dean for Curriculum, on juvenile justice. Bianca currently serves as the public interest chair for the Latinx Law Students Association and Empowering Women of Color. She is very excited to extern with the Bronx Defenders this fall. Bianca is the first in her family to attend law school.
Susannah R. Cohen
Susannah aspires to work in anti-discrimination law with a focus on women’s equality in the workplace, including issues of pay equity and sexual harassment. Susannah graduated magna cum laude from Columbia College in 2017 with a B.A. in American studies with honors. During college, she launched her career in the policy world through internships at the National Center for Access to Justice and Sen. Charles Schumer’s New York and Washington D.C. offices. After graduation, Susannah moved to Washington, D.C., where she engaged in federal legislative advocacy on issues related to gender equity and economic justice as a legislative assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. She also worked as a public policy and research assistant at the American Association of University Women. Susannah spent her 1L summer in the Civil Rights Bureau of the New York Attorney General’s Office. At Columbia Law School, Susannah is a staff editor on the Columbia Law Review, a member of the Williams Institute Moot Court on sexual orientation, and gender identity law and advocacy chair of the Columbia Law Women’s Association.
Diana is interested in promoting gender equality and working on criminal justice reform. She graduated summa cum laude from Colgate University with a B.A. in women’s studies and sociology. Before law school, Diana created a body-positivity initiative at Colgate University, worked for a feminist documentary company promoting reproductive justice, and interned with Footsteps, a nonprofit that helps empower people to take control of their futures. Diana spent her 1L summer working as a legal intern at A Better Balance. She is also a singer and songwriter and has released original music on iTunes, Spotify, and Pandora about standing up for and loving oneself.
Adia’s primary interests are civil rights and criminal justice reform. She graduated from the College of William & Mary with a B.A. in public policy and a minor in English. Before law school, Adia held summer internships at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and a criminal defense firm. Her passion for social justice issues was furthered through work at her university’s Office of Community Engagement. After graduating from college, Adia worked as an elementary school teacher in Spain. She spent her 1L summer at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, where she worked in the Trial Division. At Columbia Law School, Adia is co-president of the High School Law Institute and is on the staff of A Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual. She looks forward to participating in the NAACP Legal Defense Fund Racial Justice Externship this fall
Emily L. Drake
Emily is interested in criminal justice and advocacy. She graduated with the highest distinction from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.S. in environmental sciences and a B.A. in peace, war, and defense studies. There, she studied how climate change affects conflict severity and presented her research at Oxford University. Emily is serving as a second lieutenant in the National Guard. She spent her 1L summer serving in the New York National Guard COVID-19 Response Task Force and interning at the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. Emily is vice president of the Columbia Law School Military Association, part of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review, and will participate in the Domestic Violence Prosecution Externship in the fall.
Raisa is passionate about human rights, both internationally and domestically. She is especially interested in working with populations that are affected by conflict, specifically in the Middle East. Raisa has a B.A. in global studies from the University of Minnesota, where she focused on human rights and the Middle East. As the daughter of an immigrant, Raisa’s heritage and family history sparked her initial interest in human rights. Her work at the University of Minnesota’s Center for New Americans drove that interest toward the field of human rights law. Her experience working with Syrian refugees in Beirut fueled her passion for helping those affected by conflict. Raisa spent her 1L summer doing legal services and litigation work as an intern with the International Refugee Assistance Project in New York. As a 1L at Columbia Law School, Raisa served as a co-leader of the Rightslink pro bono caravan to Beirut and volunteered with the Domestic Violence Project. She will continue engaging in public interest work during her 2L year as the Rightslink caravan chair and vice president of Columbia Law Students for Palestine. Raisa is also a classical pianist, published creative writer, and enthusiastic dinner party host.
Adaeze is interested in policymaking, particularly as it relates to foreign policy and national security. She graduated from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, where she received her B.S.F.S. in international politics and minored in Arabic. Though Adaeze’s undergraduate studies centered on foreign policy, many of her past work experiences are public policy oriented. In college, she interned with the Department of Homeland Security, and before law school, she worked for the City of San Francisco on family violence issues. During her 1L summer, Adaeze interned for the Constitutional Accountability Center, assisting its litigation team in filing briefs in federal courts and the Supreme Court. At Columbia Law School, she is on the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, and serves as the vice president of the National Security Law Society and vice president for communications for the American Constitution Society.
Samuel is interested in multiple social justice issues, including criminal justice reform, police accountability, and civil liberties protections. He graduated from Tulane University in New Orleans with a B.A. in political economy and a minor in Spanish. Before law school, Samuel worked in Philadelphia as a field organizer for the 2016 presidential race. He then spent two years as a Fulbright English teaching assistant in Paraguay before working as a project assistant for Latin America and the Caribbean at the National Democratic Institute in Washington, D.C. Samuel spent his 1L summer at the Policing Project, where he documented current police practices in order to prepare policy statements for police departments nationwide. Samuel currently serves as president of the Columbia Law School Democrats and performed as a guitarist for the Columbia Law Revue band.
Daimiris is passionate about international criminal justice, foreign policy, and peace building. Daimiris graduated cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Florida with a B.A. in political science and a minor in French. Before law school, Daimiris interned at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where she developed an interest in international disputes and human rights law. She was later selected as a Fulbright scholar in Israel and pursued a master’s degree in international conflict resolution and mediation. For her 1L summer, Daimiris interned with the Department of Justice’s Office of Foreign Litigation, where she provided legal advice to federal agencies, departments, and government officials regarding litigation abroad and conducted research on public and private international law. Daimiris is currently the social justice chair of the Latinx Law Students Association and looks forward to joining the Mediation Clinic later this year. Daimiris is a first-generation college student and fluent in Spanish and French.
Abie is interested in a multitude of human rights and social justice issues, including governmental abuses and accountability, international human rights enforcement, and transitional justice. Abie graduated magna cum laude from New York University with a B.A. in individualized study with a concentration in intersectionality, human rights, and the law and a minor in American Sign Language. Abie’s internship at the New York State Division of Human Rights her sophomore year confirmed her passion for such work. She was later selected as a Global Human Rights Fellow, where she worked on refugee and immigrant rights as they intersect with racism. For her 1L summer, Abie interned for the immigration team of the International Rescue Committee in New York, where she worked with asylees and refugees. At Columbia Law School, Abie is the vice president of public policy for OutLaws and looks forward to joining the Human Rights Clinic this fall. Abie hails from southern Virginia and is the first in her family to attend law school.
Ailee D. Katz
Ailee is passionate about criminal justice reform and civil rights advocacy, particularly as it relates to race and gender equality. She holds a B.A. in political science and economics from Barnard College, where she earned departmental honors in economics and was an Athena Leadership Scholar. As an undergraduate, Ailee’s thesis on the Federal Reserve’s role in the 2008 financial crisis was received with distinction. Before law school, she worked at a plaintiff-side employment law firm, where she assisted individuals with Title VII employment discrimination cases and supported a successful race discrimination jury trial in federal court. Ailee spent her 1L summer as an intern for both the Federal Public Defender for the District of Columbia and the Public Defender Division of the Committee for Public Counsel Service, Massachusetts’s indigent defense agency. She also volunteered with the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, an organization that aims to prevent and correct the conviction of innocent people. Ailee looks forward to participating in Columbia Law School’s year-long externship with the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem this year. She is the first in her family to attend law school.
Zeinab is interested in criminal defense, civil rights, and appellate litigation. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Michigan and holds a master’s degree with highest honors from Yale University. Before law school, she led a grantmaking portfolio at Open Society Foundations focused on decarcerating New York City’s public systems through partnerships between city commissioners, community advocates, and philanthropic leaders. Before that, she worked as an immigrant rights organizer and direct services provider at the Arab American Association of New York. There, she worked to challenge law enforcement abuses and criminalizing practices that prevent immigrants from accessing essential social services. Zeinab spent her 1L summer in the Special Litigation Unit at the Legal Aid Society, where she worked on a lawsuit challenging the NYPD’s continued use of chokeholds and tasers against civilians. She also assisted clients in filing Article 78 petitions to challenge administrative decisions by the Department of Corrections. Zeinab is externing this fall with the Center for Appellate Litigation. She is co-president of the Columbia Muslim Law Students Association and is part of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review and A Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual. She is also a Public Service Tony Patiño Fellow.
Hyun is interested in climate law, reproductive rights, civil liberties, and economic justice. Hyun graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University with a B.A. in public policy. In college, Hyun volunteered as a tutor with the Petey Greene Program and wrote his thesis on the effect a candidate’s gender has on congressional campaign finance. After graduation, he worked as a paralegal with the New York Legal Assistance Group Clinic for Pro Se Litigants in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY), assisting pro se litigants with a variety of civil rights, employment discrimination, and other legal matters. Hyun spent his 1L summer as a judicial intern for SDNY, focusing on opinions on habeas cases. During the COVID-19 crisis, Hyun has worked on various prisoners’ rights pro bono projects, such as The Bronx Defenders’ Health Is Justice Project and publishing part of an article in Law in the Time of COVID-19.
Kate is interested in public health, including access to care and health education, drug policy, and advocating for victims of domestic violence. She graduated with distinction from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where she earned her B.A. in english literature and gender and women’s studies. Following her undergraduate education, Kate worked as a health care information technology project manager before pivoting to serve as a business and policy analyst for Wisconsin Medicaid. Her experience collaborating with clinicians, insurers, and accounting and finance teams directed her interest in health law. She spent her 1L summer at Community Health Advocates, helping New Yorkers access care through health insurance coverage appeals. At Columbia Law School, Kate volunteers through the Domestic Violence Project, competed in and now coaches for the Williams Institute Moot Court on sexual orientation and gender identity law, and is an articles editor for the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law. Kate is a native Wisconsinite and a first-generation college student.
Geesu’s areas of interest include global humanitarian issues, peacebuilding, and refugee protection. Geesu graduated magna cum laude from Middlebury College with a B.A. in economics and earned an M.P.A. at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. During his military service from 2013 to 2016, Geesu served as a U.N. peacekeeper in Lebanon. There, he developed a strong passion to pursue peace-building and humanitarian assistance as a future career. He went on to work at the International Committee of the Red Cross in Seoul and interned at the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva. For his 1L summer, Geesu interned at Just Atonement Inc., where he performed legal research and drafted legal materials on human rights litigation. Geesu is passionate about learning different languages and cultures.
August (Gus) Leinbach
Gus’s areas of interest include labor and tenants’ rights. He graduated magna cum laude from Carleton College with a B.A. in religion. Before law school, Gus spent two years as an AmeriCorps member in Minneapolis. His work with residents at an affordable housing organization contributed to his interest in tackling issues of social and economic inequality. Gus spent his 1L summer in the housing program at Mobilization for Justice in New York. At Columbia Law School, Gus has volunteered with the Tenants’ Rights Project and served as a National Lawyers Guild Legal Observer at demonstrations in New York.
Megan is interested in exploring the intersection between public and private international law, including sovereign state litigation and human rights. She graduated from Durham University in the United Kingdom with a B.A. in english literature. Before law school, she interned at the United Nations Criminal Tribunal in The Hague and worked at UNICEF in Beijing and New York. For her 1L summer, Megan served as an intern to a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Megan is originally from Connecticut and grew up in Shanghai.
Bridgett is interested in movement lawyering for intersectional climate and environmental justice. She majored in environmental studies and government and Spanish at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. Before law school, she worked as an environmental consultant for USAID, focusing on the connections between conflict, climate change, and economic development. Bridgett also worked as a field organizer in Maine during the 2018 midterm elections and has spent time volunteering with an immigrant rights group and on a campaign to establish a carbon tax in Washington, D.C. She spent her 1L summer with the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy fighting a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal on native land by the U.S.-Mexico border. At Columbia Law School, Bridgett is the pro bono chair for the Environmental Law Society and social justice chair for the Society for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. She will participate in the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic this fall. Bridgett is a native Rhode Islander and enjoys surfing at Rockaway Beach.
Anahi’s areas of interest include the rights of non-citizens and administrative law. She graduated with honors from Harvard University with a degree in social studies and a secondary in ethnicity, migration, and rights. Before law school, Anahi worked with detained asylum seekers along the U.S.-Mexico border as a community fellow with the Immigrant Justice Corps. She went on to become the executive director of the Immigrant Legal Defense Center. She spent her 1L summer with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund where she conducted research on voting rights, administrative law, and habeas petitions, and assisted with the Texas Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals case. At Columbia Law School, Anahi is a coach for the Asylum & Refugee Moot Court and the academic chair for the Latinx Law Students Association.
Stephanie is interested in a career at the intersection of law and public policy. Stephanie graduated summa cum laude from Ohio State University with a B.S. in political science and psychology and minor in criminology and criminal justice studies. Before attending law school, Stephanie served as a page for the Ohio Senate, interned for U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, served as the public policy fellow for the Columbus Partnership, and volunteered with Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children. During her 1L Summer, Stephanie interned at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and worked as a research assistant for Elizabeth Scott, Harold R. Medina Professor of Law and Vice Dean for Curriculum, studying juvenile justice for Restatement of Children and the Law. At Columbia Law School, Stephanie serves as mentorship chair of First Generation Professionals and is a staff editor on the Columbia Law Review.
Kiara aspires to a career centered at the intersection of law and public policy, focusing on her interests in multiple social justice issues including civil rights, education equity, and criminal justice reform. Kiara graduated with high distinction from the Frank Batten School at the University of Virginia with a B.A. in public policy and leadership and a minor in sociology. Prior to law school, Kiara served as a governor’s fellow to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, where she worked closely with the policy team to enact legislation. She previously interned at the U.S. Department of Justice within the Environmental Crimes Section. Kiara spent her 1L summer with the ACLU of Virginia, where she worked with staff attorneys to conduct legal research, write legal memoranda, and draft correspondence to potential clients in response to documented complaints of civil liberties and civil rights violations. During her time at Columbia Law School, Kiara has been involved in the Suspension Representation Project and the Summer Reading Program. She will participate in the Criminal Appeals Externship with the Center for Appellate Litigation this year. Kiara is a native of Richmond, Virginia, and the first in her family to attend law school.
Sana is passionate about access to justice for minority communities in Pakistan. She is a dual-degree candidate from the London School of Economics, a four-year program through which she will get both her LL.B. and J.D. Before law school, Sana served as president of Next Generation Pakistan, where she led social mobility and advocacy efforts to promote transgender rights, menstrual hygiene, and access to quality education for children from low-income backgrounds. Last year, Sana was elected as the pro-bono officer of the London School of Economics Students’ Union Law Society. During her tenure, she organized the Law Society’s first Legal Aid Conference, which attracted human rights advocates from Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan. Sana spent her 1L summer interning for a public interest law firm, where she researched internment provisions in international treaties and the legality of detention centers such as Guantanamo Bay. After law school, she aspires to establish her own pro bono defense and strategic litigation firm in Lahore, Pakistan. Sana spends her time writing and performing spoken word poetry on a variety of social justice issues.
Isaiah is passionate about criminal justice reform and economic advocacy work. Isaiah graduated cum laude from Butler University with a B.A. in strategic communications and recording industry studies. At Butler, Isaiah spent time on the Executive Board of the Fall Alternative Break program, traveling to West Virginia and Kentucky to work on affordable housing issues. Isaiah spent his 1L summer at the civil rights firm Loevy & Loevy, where he worked on wrongful conviction and police brutality litigation. At Columbia Law School, Isaiah is an editor for the Frederick Douglass Moot Court and social chair for the Black Law Students Association. Isaiah will join the Death Penalty Abolition Practicum later this year.
Roger Antonio Tejada
Roger is passionate about multiple social justice issues, including civil rights, criminal justice reform, and educational equity. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in government and legal studies from Bowdoin College, where he was a Questbridge Scholar, and a Master of Arts in Teaching with highest distinction from Relay Graduate School of Education. Before law school, Roger served as a bilingual teacher through Teach for America in his hometown of Passaic, New Jersey; a Fulbright scholar in Porto Alegre, Brazil; a Special Education Instructional Fellow at Relay Graduate School of Education in New York City; and as a policy fellow for Newark Public Schools and the New Jersey Department of Education. As a J.D.-M.P.A. dual degree candidate at Columbia Law School and Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, Roger serves as co-president of the Interschool Governing Board and treasurer of both the Latinx Law Students Association and First Generation Professionals. He is also a member of the Paralegal Pathways Project. Roger spent his 1L summer working on impact litigation and policy matters as a legal intern for the ACLU of New Jersey and a Goodwin 1L Diversity Fellow. Seeing the continued cycle of inequity at various stages of his life has led him to fight the multi-faceted issues faced by low-income communities in our nation. As a child of immigrants from the Dominican Republic and the first in his family to graduate from college and earn a graduate degree, Roger is committed to empowering others to achieve the American dream.
Brandon’s focus is using the open-source evidence generated online to pursue accountability for wrongful state violence both domestically and internationally. Brandon graduated magna cum laude and as an Honors Scholar from Kennesaw State University with a B.A. in world history and cultures. Before law school, Brandon spent two years working for The Carter Center monitoring the Syrian conflict and, later, electoral violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Brandon founded and heads the 3dl Project, a volunteer group of nine investigators preserving digital evidence of crimes against humanity. For his 1L summer, Brandon worked on capital appeals as a Stevens Fellow at the Federal Defenders for the Middle District of Alabama, which handles the highest death sentencing rate per capita in the United States. Passionate about legal advocacy, Brandon coaches the Immigrant and Refugee Rights Moot Court Team and is vice president of Rightslink. Brandon is a native Georgian and a first-generation graduate student.
Dante is committed to social change through peacebuilding, foreign policy, and human rights law. Dante graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a B.S. in psychology and earned an A.M. degree in social service administration from the University of Chicago concentrating in global social development. During his time at UChicago, Dante co-founded The Renaissance Men, a school-sponsored initiative dedicated to the recognition, recruitment, and retention of Black men as social workers. After working in legal aid and with youth in Chicago’s South Side, Dante served as an intern, then director of operations, for Refugee Youth Service in Calais, France. He later became a licensed social worker and engaged in child protection and asylum work for unaccompanied refugee minors in informal camps. At Columbia Law School, Dante is the Black Law Student Association’s International Service Trip committee chair for Transitional Justice in Rwanda and a member of SIPA’s International Fellows Program, and he has been involved with the Human Rights Clinic’s Armed Conflict in the Central African Republic Project. Dante spent his 1L summer interning for the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, where he focused on the equity of governmental responses to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Oren’s interests include law and economics, antitrust law, and corporate regulation. Oren graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in philosophy, politics, and economics and a minor in French & Francophone studies. Before law school, Oren worked at the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C., where he helped investigate and litigate antitrust cases as part of the Honors Paralegal Program. For his 1L summer, Oren was accepted into the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Student Honors Program in the Division of Enforcement. At Columbia Law School, Oren serves as the president of the Columbia Antitrust Law and Economics Association and as a 2L representative for First Generation Professionals. Oren is a first-generation college graduate and law student and is proficient in Hebrew and French.
Updated July 30, 2020