Meet the 2021 Public Interest/Public Service Fellows

Members of this year’s class will focus on issues including reimagining the criminal justice system, advocating for women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, and fighting for immigration reform. 

Exterior of Jerome L. Greene Hall featuring the sculpture Bellerophon Taming Pegasus

In 2019, Social Justice Initiatives (SJI) launched the Public Interest/Public Service Fellows Program (now The Max Berger ’71 Public Interest/Public Service Fellows Program) to provide resources and opportunities tailored to students who plan to pursue careers in public interest, human rights, nonprofit, and government. Now, more than 30 members of the Class of 2024 have been chosen for the third cohort of fellows. Over the next three years, they will attend professional development workshops, meet with mentors working in their field of interest, and participate in events designed to inspire collaboration. 

“For me, being part of the PI/PS Fellows Program means being part of a larger movement,” says fellow Brandon Vines ’22. “While each fellow is a passionate advocate for different causes, the program brings us together under one roof to learn from each other and a diverse set of advisers. Being a PI/PS fellow means seeing how our individual fields interconnect and mutually reinforce. We discover together how each of us contributes to our greater, shared goal of justice.” 

Meet this year’s class below (updated September 9, 2022), and learn more about the 2019 and 2020 fellows.
Zartosht Ahlers

Zartosht Ahlers ’24

Zartosht Ahlers is interested in public spaces, accessibility, and public transportation. Zartosht graduated from Princeton University with a degree in politics, concentrating in international relations. Before law school, Zartosht was a High Meadows Fellow for environmental nonprofit The Wilderness Society, where he researched renewable energy development on public lands and issues related to climate justice and just transition. He spent his 1L summer at the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project. Zartosht comes from a refugee/migration background and hopes to use his work to empower people with a similar background.

Sarah Al-Shalash smiling and wearing a black suit

Sarah Al-Shalash ’24

Sarah Al-Shalash is interested in the intersection of technology and human rights. Sarah holds a B.A. in ethics, politics, and economics from Yale University. Before law school, Sarah worked as an intern for the U.S. Department of State, conducting data-driven research analyzing the disinformation threat posed by Russia and China in Latin America. She also worked as a federal and public sector consultant at Deloitte, where she focused on technology and the public sector. For her 1L summer, Sarah interned at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, where she continued working on technology, privacy, and civil liberties. At the Law School, she is involved with the 1L Human Rights Advocates Program, the Knight First Amendment Institute, and the Columbia Law School Legal Tech Association.

Andrew S. Brazer

Drew Brazer ’24

Drew Brazer is passionate about protecting civil rights—specifically by transforming our inhumane criminal justice system and dysfunctional political processes. He graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University with a B.A. in political science and minors in history and Italian. Drew’s thesis on the effects of Amendments I-VIII on the separation of powers and system of checks and balances was awarded the Stephen Whelan ’68 prize for excellence in constitutional law and political thought. Prior to law school, Drew worked in Washington, D.C., as the government relations manager for Blue Star Families—a national nonprofit dedicated to supporting military and veteran families. There, he developed and directed an advocacy program in support of policies to address the challenges faced by military and veteran families. Drew spent his 1L summer working for the Capital Habeas Unit of the Federal Public Defender for the Middle District of Tennessee. At the Law School, Drew is a member of the Constitutional Rights in Life and Death Penalty Cases externship and serves as president of the American Constitution Society. Drew is the first member of his family to attend law school.

Jackeline Carcamo

Jackeline M. Carcamo ’24

Jackeline M. Carcamo aspires to a career in international criminal law, with a specific focus on investigating crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide. She graduated cum laude from Boston University with a B.A. in political science and international relations and minors in French and history. Jackeline spent her childhood in El Salvador, where she witnessed the lasting impact of war. Through her participation in Global Brigades and the Intergenerational Literacy Program, as well as her work as a translator for pro bono clients seeking asylum, she was exposed to first-hand accounts of the legacy of war. Jackeline spent her 1L summer working for both the International Rights Advocates and the ABA Center for Human Rights. Jackeline is the first member of her family to attend college and the first to attend law school.

Dakota Stone Fenn

Dakota Fenn ’24

Dakota Fenn is interested in voting rights, the rule of law, and the role of reparatory measures in transitional justice. Dakota graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in international relations and Latin American studies. Prior to law school, Dakota worked on federal and local campaigns in multiple states. During his 1L summer, he worked with Dejusticia, a Colombian research and advocacy organization, on developing a legal framework for reparations in novel drug regulatory schemes. At the Law School, Dakota has volunteered with the Southern Poverty Law Center Parole Project and the Davis Polk Asylum Clinic. He is currently co-president of the Columbia Society of International Law. 

Meanna Gechal Gray

Meanna Gray ’24

Meanna Gray is passionate about criminal justice reform surrounding mass incarceration. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, where she earned a B.A. in political science and minored in African American studies. During her time at Berkeley, Meanna served as a Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow in the Office of California State Assembly member Shirley Weber and JusticeCorps Fellow in the Pomona Superior Court. Her honors thesis focused on the traditional oversimplification of Black voting behavior and was published in John Hopkins University’s Macksey Journal. ​For her 1L summer, Meanna interned at the Clause 40 Foundation and the Due Process Institute, focusing on nonpartisan criminal justice reform in Washington, D.C. At the Law School, Meanna is involved in the Rikers Education Program and the Social Consciousness Committee of the Black Law Students Association. She is also working on a project to modernize Civil Procedure casebooks to reflect more diversity and inclusion. Meanna is fluent in Spanish and eventually hopes to create a nonprofit organization serving foster youth.

Margaret Hassel

Margaret Hassel ’24

Margaret Hassel is interested in legal issues related to gender and economic justice, including family violence, tenants’ rights, and labor law. She studied economics and women’s and gender studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Before law school, she coordinated housing programs for a domestic violence agency. She spent her 1L summer at the Fair Housing Justice Center, working on housing discrimination investigations and policy advocacy. At Columbia, Margaret is a staff editor on the Columbia Law Review. She has conducted legal research on tenants’ rights issues as an intern for Goddard Riverside’s Community Law Project and was involved in the Native American Law Students Association Moot Court team and the Domestic Violence Project, for which she will serve as advocacy chair for the 2022–2023 school year. 

Josh Jacob smiling and wearing a blue suit

Josh Jacob ’24

Josh Jacob is interested in economic justice, labor law, and building worker power. Josh graduated from Georgia Tech with a B.S. and an M.S. in international affairs and minors in computer science and public policy. Prior to law school, Josh interned for The Carter Center’s Democracy Program and worked for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, serving the state’s agricultural community. Josh spent his 1L summer as a research assistant for Professor Kate Andrias, doing pro bono work in support of just-cause protections for New York City fast food workers and researching labor and employment law. At Columbia Law, Josh has worked with the Economic Justice Collective to support striking workers on campus and advocate for law student worker collective bargaining rights. Josh is an Atlanta native and the son of immigrants from Kerala, India.

Jamie Jenkins

Jamie Jenkins ’24

Jamie Jenkins is pursuing a career in direct representation and hopes to work towards abolition in collaboration with incarcerated people. Jamie graduated summa cum laude from Santa Clara University with a B.S. in ethnic studies and a minor in French. Jamie’s undergraduate career culminated with her senior thesis on the Attica Prison uprising and its role in the Civil and Prisoners’ Rights movements. This research solidified her commitment to addressing civil rights violations in prisons, specifically those committed against Black people. Jamie spent her 1L summer at Federal Defenders of New York, where she assisted attorneys in the trial division and appellate unit. At Columbia Law School, Jamie is a staff editor for the Columbia Law Review and co-president of the Prison Healthcare Initiative. She was previously a staffer for the Columbia Journal of Race and Law. Jamie has previously lived in Paris, where she continued her French studies and worked as an au pair.

Daniel John W. Jones

Daniel “Jack” Jones ’24

Jack Jones is interested in environmental and energy law. He graduated cum laude from Cornell University with B.A. in English and a minor in information science. Before law school, Jack worked as a paralegal for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and a legal analyst in the Public Integrity Bureau of the New York State Attorney General’s Office. In the Attorney General’s Office, he worked on complex investigations and presented evidence in a jury trial, experiences which confirmed his desire to pursue a career in public interest law. Jack spent his 1L summer at the New York State Attorney General’s Office in the Environmental Protection Bureau. He is currently the co-president of the Environmental Law Society, a member of the Columbia Journal of Environmental Law, and a coach for Columbia’s team in Pace Law School’s 2023 Jeffrey G. Miller National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition.

Zak ​​Kayal ’24

Zachary “Zak” Kayal ’24

Zak Kayal is a passionate advocate for gender, sexuality, and reproductive justice. Zak graduated with distinction from Yale University with a B.A. in sociology. Before law school, Zak spent two years in England as a legal analyst with McAllister Olivarius, a plaintiff-side firm representing survivors of child sexual abuse, workplace sexual harassment, and sexual misconduct in schools and universities. During the pandemic, he returned to his home state of Colorado to work for local nonprofits campaigning to preserve abortion access and serving survivors of domestic violence. Zak spent his 1L summer at the ACLU Center for Liberty, working to combat the use of religion to justify discrimination against women, LGBTQ+ people, and people seeking reproductive healthcare. At Columbia Law, Zak has competed on the Gender and Sexuality Moot Court and volunteered with the Ark Immigration Clinic. He is currently the vice president of public policy for OutLaws, advocacy chair for the Student Public Interest Network, and a staff member for the Journal of Law and Social Problems.

Divya Korada

Divya Korada ’24

Divya Korada is interested in housing justice and tenant advocacy through creative approaches to lawyering. Divya graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 2018 with a B.A. in international studies and political science. Before law school, Divya worked as a legal assistant for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in their Fair Housing and Community Development Project. She also worked as an intern for Amnesty International and later served as a program assistant for Human Rights Connected, drafting guides on the effective uses of international and regional legal mechanisms. Divya spent her 1L summer working for Mobilization for Justice’s Housing Rights Project. At the Law School, she has interned with the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York and Goddard Riverside Law Project. She is on the board of the Tenants' Rights Project and South Asian Law Students Association. Divya is proud to hail from Edison, New Jersey. 

Stephen J. Kpundeh

Stephen Kpundeh ’24

Stephen Kpundeh is interested in providing direct civil legal services to low-income populations. Stephen graduated from Vassar College with a B.A. in political science and a minor in Hispanic studies. During college, he interned at Housing Conservation Coordinators, the Children’s Defense Fund, and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid. Most recently, Stephen was a paralegal in the Tenants’ Rights Unit of the New York Legal Assistance Group. Stephen spent his 1L summer interning in the Economic Justice Unit of Bronx Legal Services, where he assisted low-income Bronx residents with consumer protection, disability, and employment issues. Stephen was a 1L representative for the Suspension Representation Project and a member of the Tenants’ Rights Project. He joined the Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems as a staffer during his 2L year.

Peyton Lepp

Peyton Lepp ’24

Peyton ​​Lepp is passionate about international human rights and criminal justice. Peyton graduated from Stanford University with a B.A. in international relations and a minor in Middle Eastern languages, literatures, and cultures. After a year of working in the private sector, Peyton learned the importance of pursuing a career in public service. She then worked for two years at Teach For America, a nonprofit working to end educational inequity in her hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Peyton spent her 1L summer at the International Legal Foundation, which works to provide criminal defense services and build sustainable legal aid institutions around the world. At Columbia, Peyton is the president of the Native American Law Students Association. Peyton is a proud citizen of Cherokee Nation and also has familial ties to Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation.

Erika Lopez ’24

Erika Lopez ’24

Erika Lopez is passionate about reimagining the existing criminal justice system and addressing carceral-related issues, such as the school-to-prison pipeline and police brutality. Erika graduated from Yale University with a B.A. in psychology. Growing up with a father who worked in law enforcement and family members who were impacted by the criminal justice system exposed Erika to the complex inequities of the U.S. legal system and motivated her to find a way to meaningfully make change. Prior to law school, Erika worked as a paralegal, most recently for a Criminal Justice Act defense attorney on a trial in the Southern District of New York. Erika spent her 1L summer in Charlotte, North Carolina at the Mecklenburg County Public Defender’s Office. At Columbia, Erika is a staff editor for the Columbia Law Review and president of Empowering Women of Color. She was also a staff editor on the Columbia Journal of Race and Law, a member of the LaLSA Asylum and Refugee Law Moot Court, and 1L representative for the Suspension Representation Project, representing New York City public school students in their superintendent suspension hearings. Erika is a proud Nuyorican and after graduation plans on working to make New York City more just and equitable for Black and brown residents.

Kendrick Lu ’24

Kendrick Lu ’24

Kendrick Lu is interested in criminal defense, foreign relations, and immigration. Kendrick received a B.A. in international studies as part of the Interdisciplinary Honors Program at the University of Washington in Seattle. Before law school, Kendrick worked in immigration and anti-trafficking direct services with the International Rescue Committee. Kendrick was also an environmental policy research fellow with the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies and later an anti-trafficking research fellow at the Seattle Human Rights Commission. For his 1L summer, Kendrick worked at the Shelby County Public Defender in Memphis, Tennessee, providing legal services to indigent defendants. At Columbia Law, Kendrick is a staff editor for A Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual. He also participated in the Northwest Immigrants Rights Project Spring Caravan, providing research support on asylum, T visa, and U visa applications. Kendrick is a certified personal trainer and writes for the Foreign Exchanges newsletter.

Ashley Marceus

Ashley Marceus ’24

Ashley Marceus is interested in the prosecution of domestic violence and sex crimes. Ashley graduated from the University of Florida with a B.A. in political science, African American studies, and women studies. Before law school, Ashley served as the president of the NAACP’s University of Florida Gator Chapter, where she reestablished the chapter and led campaigns to fight discrimination at the University of Florida and in the Gainesville community. Most recently, Ashley worked as a Justice Navigator for Lee County Clerk of Courts assisting pro se litigants navigate the judicial system. She also supervised a self help center and collaborated with the Lee County Legal Aid Society to plan and execute a weekly legal clinic. For her 1L summer, Ashley worked with Lee County Legal Aid, where she provided civil services to indigent clients seeking relief in domestic relations cases. During her 1L year, Ashley participated in Sanctuary for Families’ Uncontested Divorce Project, where she assisted domestic violence survivors obtain divorces. Ashley is multilingual and of Haitian descent.

Anaheed L. Mobaraki ’24

Anaheed L. Mobaraki ’24

Anaheed L. Mobaraki is interested in pursuing a career in public defense work and is a strong advocate for criminal justice reform, pursued through the lens of critical race theory and abolitionist perspectives. Anaheed graduated from Yale University with a B.A. in political science with distinction. During her undergraduate years, Anaheed dedicated her summers to interning with nonprofit organizations such as the ACLU of Virginia, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and Alliance for Justice. She became passionate about criminal justice via her coursework on wrongful convictions and her volunteer activities, during which she worked with the Connecticut Innocence Project, tutored at a state prison, and at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, joined an organization called Mourning Our Losses that memorializes the lives lost in prisons, jails, and detention centers across the United States. For her 1L summer, Anaheed interned at the Federal Public Defender for the District of Maryland, Appellate Office, where she performed legal research and drafted pleadings for client cases in federal court. At Columbia Law, Anaheed has been deeply involved in several collectives dedicated to practicing transformative justice and improving spaces for public interest students at the Law School. She has also served as a 1L staffer on the Columbia Journal of Race and Law, and on the boards of First Generation Professionals, Empowering Women of Color, and the National Lawyers Guild. Anaheed is a proud Iranian-American and Marylander. She is also the first in her family to attend college and law school. 

William Oh ’24

William Oh ’24

William Oh is passionate about working at the intersection of immigration justice, economic justice, and decarceration and is deeply committed to working towards a larger vision of abolition and full citizenship for all. William earned a B.A. from Harvard College where he studied social anthropology and ethnicity, migration, and rights with a focus on Asian American studies. Prior to law school, he was the lead youth organizer at the HANA Center in Chicago, where he worked together with immigrant youth to fight for expanded sanctuary and police-free schools. William spent his 1L summer at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia as an intern in the Civil Legal Services Division. At Columbia, William has participated in the LaLSA Asylum and Refugee Law Moot Court and will continue to participate in the Restorative Justice Collective, the National Lawyers Guild-Economic Justice Collective, and Parole Advocacy Project. William is also a staffer for the Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual, public interest co-chair for the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, a member of the Paralegal Pathways Initiative, and a member of the Criminal Defense Clinic. William is proud to hail from Los Angeles County and is the first in his family to attend law school.

Justin Onwenu

Justin Onwenu ’24

Justin Onwenu is passionate about workers’ rights, environmental justice, and government reform. He holds a B.A. from Rice University, where he served as student body president and helped lead local recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Before law school, Justin served as a White House intern and appointee for Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. As a community organizer in Detroit’s most polluted zip code, he built broad coalitions to secure over $500,000 to protect schoolchildren from poor air quality, wrote and helped pass the Detroit River Protection Ordinance, and connected vulnerable residents to resources in the face of COVID-19. Justin spent his 1L summer in Detroit as a legal clerk for the United Auto Workers. At Columbia Law, he is a research assistant for Professor Kate Andrias, a teaching assistant for Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger, and president of the Columbia Law School Democrats. Outside of law school, Justin serves as a senior advisor for the Michigan Voters for Transparency and Term Limits bipartisan statewide ballot initiative. 

Michael Orlando

Michael Orlando ’24

Michael Orlando is interested in the intersection of criminal justice, education, and poverty. Michael holds a B.S.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. Before law school, he spent three years teaching high school chemistry in Fort Worth, Texas. During his time as a teacher, Michael was a School Organizing Fellow for Leadership for Educational Equity, organizing community members to address inequities at the school level. He also served as a Results Fellow for RESULTS, a grassroots advocacy organization that pushes for policies and legislation to address poverty. Michael spent his 1L summer in Denver, Colorado as a legal intern with the Office of the Colorado State Public Defender. At Columbia, Michael is a staff editor for the Columbia Law Review and has been involved with the Suspension Representation Project working to safeguard students' access to an education in New York City public schools. Michael is the first in his family to attend law school.

Elias Peter Passas

Elias Passas ’24

Elias Passas came to law school to fight for the human rights of people facing state violence, such as prison. He holds a B.A. in political science from Northwestern University. Prior to law school, Elias interned at a boutique asylum law firm and with the office of Sen. Tammy Duckworth, where he focused on consumer and LGBTQ+ rights. More recently, Elias served as a paralegal at the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. Growing up in Colorado, Elias worked as a carpenter with his father. He is the first member of his family to attend law school. Elias spent his 1L summer in Sacramento, California as an intern with the Federal Defenders Office for the Eastern District of California. During his time at Columbia, Elias worked with a man seeking freedom from incarceration as a part of the Parole Project. He has also been active in the Restorative Justice Collective, which seeks to envision alternatives to the criminal legal system. Elias grew up in rural Colorado, and his twin sister is also a lawyer.

Clayton Pierce

Clayton Pierce ’24

Clayton Pierce is passionate about death penalty abolition and protecting voting rights. He graduated from Colorado College with a B.A. in political science and a minor in film and media studies. As an undergraduate, he wrote his honors thesis on legal theory and capital punishment in the United States. Before law school, he interned at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation and worked as a litigation assistant at the plaintiff-side firm Gibbs Law Group. Clayton spent his 1L summer with the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, where he worked on voting rights policy. At Columbia Law, Clayton is an extern with the Knight First Amendment Institute, a staff member of the Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems, a student advisor for the Center for Voting Rights, and a 2L Representative for Columbia Law School Democrats. He is a proud alumnus of Berkeley Public Schools.

Priyanka Radhakrishnan

Priyanka Radhakrishnan ’24

Priyanka Radhakrishnan is passionate about serving indigent families and hopes to spend her career working on issues such as housing justice and welfare reform. Priyanka graduated with First Class Honors from the University of Edinburgh where she completed a joint degree in international relations and law. Prior to law school, Priyanka interned at the Bronx Defenders Civil Action Practice and ran a student-led think tank in Edinburgh. She recently spent two years as a social worker in the South Bronx, helping teens in foster care obtain educational support and mental health resources. For her 1L summer, Priyanka interned at HAQ, a children’s rights law center based in New Delhi, where she conducted research on housing rights and advocated on behalf of migrant families. During her time at Columbia, Priyanka has volunteered with the Parole Advocacy Project and New York Legal Assistance Group’s Mobile Benefits Unit. She is co-president of Rightslink and a participant in the Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic. Priyanka has worked with indigent communities in Bangalore, Edinburgh, and New York City. She hopes to continue exploring various national welfare systems in order to promote innovative reforms in the United States.

Harry Reis ’24

Harry Reis ’24

Harry Reis’ primary interests include human and civil rights law, the resolution of violent conflict, and international negotiations. He graduated with a B.A. in history from Brown University. Harry has focused the past decade of his career on resolving intractable conflict and advancing human rights and democratic governance. Until this year, he served as the director of policy and strategy at the New Israel Fund, advancing human rights and progressive social movements in Israel-Palestine. Previously, he served as senior advisor and speechwriter to the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League. As a research associate to the former peace negotiator and U.S. National Security Council director, Ambassador Dennis Ross, he supported efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the P5+1 nuclear negotiations with Iran. In 2017, he was awarded a Dorot Fellowship in Israel, where he studied painting and the history of Israel’s military government. Harry spent his 1L summer at the New York Attorney General’s Office working on litigation holding drug manufacturers and distributors responsible for their role in the opioid epidemic. At Columbia Law, Harry is vice president of the Columbia Law School Democrats and serves on the executive board of the Columbia Society of International Law. Harry is fluent in Hebrew and is the first in his family to attend law school.

Gabriela Ornelas

Gabriela Rocío Ramírez Ornelas

Gabriela Rocío Ramírez Ornelas is passionate about dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline and other systemic mechanisms of structural racism. She was drawn to public interest law by its potential to forge equitable social systems that center community voice on the pursuit of true public welfare. Gabriela graduated from Pitzer College as a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, earning a B.A. with honors in sociology and Chicanx-Latinx studies. Prior to law school, Gabriela served as a capital defense investigator supporting indigent petitioners in death row habeas corpus proceedings. She spent her 1L summer working for the Clean Slate Practice at the East Bay Community Law Center, where she provided legal advocacy services for clients experiencing homelessness. At the Law School, she participates in the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem Community Defense Externship and The Columbia Journal of Race and Law. She was previously a member of the Frederick Douglass Moot Court team. Motivated by her professional experience, she aims to disrupt the pipeline of intersectional low-income children of color going from child welfare and education systems to the criminal justice system. Originally from San Jose, California, Gabriela is the first in her family to pursue a law degree.

Rubí Rodriguez ’24

Rubí Rodriguez ’24

Rubí Rodriguez is passionate about criminal and deportation defense, advocating for justice-impacted youth, and decriminalizing poverty. Rubí graduated from the University of Georgia with a B.A. in international relations and anthropology. Before law school, Rubí worked at several immigrants’ rights organizations focused on a range of efforts, including housing and economic justice and challenging the prolonged detention of asylum-seekers. She was a paralegal on the ACLU team that helped reunite thousands of families that were separated at the border in 2018 and was a digital organizer with MoveOn during the 2020 election. Rubí spent her 1L summer at the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, where she served as a child advocate for separated and unaccompanied children and did legal research and writing. At Columbia Law School, Rubí is a staff editor for A Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual and has participated in the LaLSA Asylum and Refugee Law Moot Court. Rubí’s is the daughter of working-class immigrants, which prompted her political awakening at a young age. She is the first in her family to attend college and law school. 

Nayzak Wali-Ali

Nayzak Wali-Ali ’24

Nayzak Wali-Ali is passionate about the abolition of the violent prison system in the U.S., fighting against mass incarceration that disproportionately criminalizes lower-income Black and Brown communities; specifically, she is invested in capital punishment defense and campaigning to end the use of the death penalty. Nayzak graduated summa cum laude from the University of California, Berkeley with a B.A. in legal studies and ethnic studies. As an undergraduate, she conducted research for the Civil Justice Research Initiative at Berkeley Law and worked with the Black Recruitment and Retention Center and the Black Student Union to address systematic inequalities in higher education. Before law school, Nayzak volunteered with the Berkeley Law Death Penalty Clinic and Bay Area JusticeCorps. For her 1L summer, Nayzak interned at the ACLU Capital Punishment Project, where she supported capital defense attorneys and worked on policy/legislative research to curtail the use of the death penalty. At Columbia Law School, Nayzak has served on the executive board of the Criminal Justice Action Network, Prison Healthcare Initiative, and Empowering Women of Color, and worked as a 1L on the Journal of Race and Law. She also served as a research assistant for Professor Omavi Shukur, supporting his research and activism on abolition and the criminalization of Black resistance. Nayzak is a native Californian and lived in Morocco during her early education.

Rose Wehrman

Rose Wehrman ’24

Rose Wehrman is interested in children’s law, especially in issues involving family regulation, juvenile justice, and educational inequities. She graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln with a B.A. in English. Before law school, Rose taught at a K-8 access center in Philadelphia through AmeriCorps and worked as a research assistant for the Nebraska State Department of Education. Rose spent her 1L summer at the Support Center for Child Advocates, which provides legal services for victims of child abuse, and as a research assistant on juvenile sex offender policy for the Restatement of Children and the Law. At Columbia Law, Rose is a staffer on the Journal of Law and Social Problems, a participant in the Structural Change in Public Education Policy and Social Change Lab, and a volunteer with the Youth Sentencing and Re-entry Project. She was previously involved with the Uncontested Divorce Project through Sanctuary for Families and was a Kramer Levin Racial Justice Initiative Scholar. ​​Rose grew up on a farm in rural Nebraska and is the first in her family to attend law school.

Isabel Zúñiga ’24

Isabel Zúñiga ’24

Isabel Zúñiga is passionate about immigration reform and refugee advocacy. She graduated with high distinction and high honors from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in history and political science and a minor in Latin American and Caribbean studies. As an undergraduate, she worked in the Immigrant Justice Lab and compiled asylum briefs for unaccompanied children at the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center. Inspired to learn more about her local communities in Puerto Rico, Isabel wrote her honors thesis on the Cuban immigrant community in Puerto Rico’s collective identity and intergenerational narrative. Isabel spent her 1L summer at the Legal Aid Society Immigration Unit, where she worked in immigration defense. At Columbia, Isabel is a staff editor for the Columbia Law Review and president of the Latinx Law Students Association. She was previously a policy representative for the Society for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, where she researched current news and developments in immigration law. Isabel’s education, background, and experiences have solidified her desire to become an immigrants’ rights attorney, ally, and advocate.

The Office of Social Justice Initiatives (SJI) guides Columbia Law School students who want to pursue public interest and public service work throughout their academic careers and after graduation. SJI also assists in the process of applying to postgraduate fellowships.