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 to provide resources and opportunities tailored to students who plan to pursue careers in public interest, human rights, nonprofit, and government. Now, 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, and learn more about the 2019 and 2020 fellows.
Zartosht Ahlers

Zartosht Ahlers

Zartosht Ahlers is interested in exploring questions at the intersection of human rights, international law, and artificial intelligence technology. 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. Zartosht comes from a refugee/migration background and hopes to use his work to empower people with a similar background.

Sarah Al-Shalash

Sarah Al-Shalash

Sarah Al-Shalash is interested in the intersection of technology and human rights. She earned 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. 

Andrew S. Brazer

Drew Brazer

Drew Brazer is passionate about civil rights and criminal justice reform. He graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University with a B.A. in political science and minors in history and Italian. At Princeton, Drew’s independent work centered on the Bill of Rights and how changes to the U.S. Constitution have undermined the separation of powers and system of checks and balances. More recently, 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 devised data-driven policy recommendations for members of Congress, the Pentagon, and state legislatures. Drew is the first member of his family to attend law school.

Ebba S. Brunnstrom

Ebba Brunnstrom

Ebba Brunnstrom​​ is passionate about advancing fairness within the criminal justice system. She attended high school in London and graduated magna cum laude from Brown University with honors in philosophy. Before law school, Ebba spent two years as a paralegal in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Working on federal narcotics cases contributed to her interest in both criminal law and public service. Outside of the law, Ebba enjoys fencing and served as captain of the Brown University Women’s Fencing team.

Jackeline Carcamo

Jackeline M. Carcamo

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 is the first member of her family to attend college and the first to attend law school.

Meanna Gechal Gray

Meanna Gray

Meanna Gray is passionate about issues related to foster care reform, criminal legal reform, racial justice, and federal civil rights litigation. She graduated with high distinction and departmental honors and as a member of Pi Sigma Alpha 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. ​​Growing up in Wisconsin, Meanna was exposed to modern segregation and racial discrimination. In law school, she looks forward to studying the administration of social justice through judicial review and appellate law, and she eventually hopes to create a nonprofit organization serving foster youth. Meanna is fluent in Spanish. 

Joshua M. Jacob

Josh Jacob

Josh Jacob is interested in issues of economic justice with an emphasis on strengthening labor law and building worker power. He graduated from Georgia Tech with a B.S. in international affairs and minors in computer science and public policy as well as an M.S. in international affairs with a focus on global development. Prior to law school, Josh worked as an intern for The Carter Center and later served as a Georgia state employee for four years, working in economic development for the state’s agricultural sector. A proud Southerner, Josh is an Atlanta native and the son of immigrants from Kerala, India.

Jamie Jenkins

Jamie Jenkins

Jamie Jenkins aspires to a career battling racism in the criminal justice system and hopes to work 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 has previously lived in Paris, where she continued her French studies and worked as an au pair.

Daniel John W. Jones

Daniel “Jack” Jones

Jack Jones is interested in exploring a career 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.

Zak Kayal

Zachary “Zak” Kayal

Zak ​​Kayal is a passionate advocate for women’s and LGBTQ+ rights–particularly surrounding issues of domestic violence, sexual assault, and employment discrimination. 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 other sexual misconduct. During the pandemic, he returned to his home state of Colorado to intern with the Colorado State Attorney General’s Office and a local nonprofit serving survivors of domestic violence.

Divya Korada

Divya Korada

Divya Korada is interested in housing and food justice. She graduated from Johns Hopkins University 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.

Stephen J. Kpundeh

Stephen Kpundeh

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. 

Peyton Lepp

Peyton Lepp

Peyton ​​Lepp is passionate about international human rights and issues impacting Native Americans. 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 is a proud citizen of Cherokee Nation and also has familial ties to Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation.

Erika C. Lopez

Erika Lopez

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 for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Connecticut, and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. Most recently, she interned for a Criminal Justice Act defense attorney on a trial in the Southern District of New York. Erika is a proud Nuyorican and looks forward to making New York City more just and equitable for Black and brown residents.

Kendrick Lu

Kendrick Lu

Kendrick Lu is interested in the intersection of environmental and national security law, and the role of the state in protecting its constituents from the effects of climate change. Kendrick received a B.A in international studies as part of the Interdisciplinary Honors Program at the University of Washington. As an undergraduate, Kendrick spent two summers working at the International Rescue Committee, on their anti-trafficking and immigration teams. More recently, Kendrick was named a Junior Arctic Fellow with the UW Canadian Studies Center, through which he traveled to Canada to conduct research on the impact of climate change on Indigenous communities residing in the Arctic Circle. Kendrick is a certified personal trainer.

Ashley Marceus

Ashley Marceus

Ashley Marceus is passionate about civil rights law and advocating for gender equity. 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. Ashley is multilingual and of Haitian descent.

Jordan M. McMeans

Jordan McMeans

Jordan McMeans is passionate about the intersecting issues of racial justice, economic disparity, LGBTQ+ rights, and gender equality. Jordan graduated from Villanova University with a B.A. in political science and gender studies as well as a minor in biology. While at Villanova, he worked to improve conditions for formerly incarcerated people as an intern at Sisters Returning Home. He also served on the board of the Service Learning Community, where he coordinated service projects to combat homelessness and hunger in the Philadelphia area. It was through his experiences as an undergraduate that Jordan became committed to public service work. Jordan is the first person in his family to attend law school.

Anaheed L. Mobaraki

Anaheed L. Mobaraki

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. Anaheed is a proud Iranian-American and Marylander. She is also the first in her family to attend college and law school. 

Rohan S. Naik

Rohan Naik

Rohan Naik is interested in issues related to criminal justice, national security, and public corruption. He has a B.A. in history from Yale College and an M.A in public history from Queen’s University Belfast, where he was a George J. Mitchell Scholar. Prior to law school, Rohan was a researcher for a Netflix documentary series and worked as a freelance journalist in Northern Ireland. He has served as a researcher and reporter for organizations including ProPublica, The New York Times, and the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting. Rohan is originally from Houston.

William Oh

William Oh

William Oh is passionate about immigration justice, public defense, and economic justice, and he 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 is proud to hail from Los Angeles County and is the first in his family to attend law school.

Michael Orlando

Michael Orlando

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 is the first in his family to attend law school.

Elias Peter Passas

Elias Passas

Elias Passas is interested in human rights law, both domestically and internationally. Elias graduated with 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. 

Shuyu Qi

Shuyu Qi

Shuyu Qi is interested in international human rights, gender equality, and education equality. He graduated with the highest honors from the University of California, Berkeley with a B.A. in interdisciplinary studies. At Berkeley, Shuyu was involved in various student organizations focused on community services and raising awareness of underprivileged children. His honors thesis explored the influence that China’s one-child policy has on younger generations. Through this experience, he developed a strong interest in defending individual rights and speaking for the voiceless. Before law school, he interned with the Hainan Legal Aid Center and served as an English and math teacher in his hometown of Hainan, China. He is the first in his family to attend college and law school.

Priyanka Radhakrishnan

Priyanka Radhakrishnan

Priyanka Radhakrishnan is passionate about serving indigent families and hopes to spend her career working on issues such as education inequality 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. 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 B. Reis

Harry Reis

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 is fluent in Hebrew and 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. She was also granted the Intercollegiate Chicanx-Latinx Studies Award. Prior to law school, Gabriela was a policy aide for a county supervisor overseeing child welfare policy efforts; she also served as a capital defense investigator supporting petitioners in death row habeas corpus proceedings. 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 A. Rodriguez

Rubí Rodriguez

Rubí Rodriguez is passionate about immigration reform, refugee advocacy, criminal justice reform, and civil rights. Rubí studied international relations and anthropology at the University of Georgia. Prior to law school, she worked with immigrant rights advocacy organizations in New York, including ACLU’s Immigrants’ Right Project and the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. During the 2020 election year, Rubí dedicated herself to voter mobilization work. Having grown up in a working-class immigrant family in Atlanta, Rubí attributes her passion for social justice to her public school teachers who taught her about the civil rights movement and the importance of challenging oppressive systems.

Namratha B. Somayajula

Namratha Somayajula

Namratha ​​Somayajula is passionate about domestic and international human rights, including the right to water, and hopes to support frontline communities seeking economic and environmental justice. Namratha earned a B.A. in international studies from the University of Oregon. There, she participated in the Oxford Consortium for Human Rights and was an intern and a teaching assistant for the Prison Education Program. After graduating, Namratha moved to Washington, D.C., where she worked for ReThink Media’s peace and security team as a Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellow. Most recently, Namratha worked at Human Rights Watch, where she supported a team investigating human rights abuses linked to the economic activities of governments, corporations, and international financial institutions and advocating for more just, rights-respecting standards and policies.

Nayzak Wali-Ali

Nayzak Wali-Ali

Nayzak Wali-Ali aspires to a career focused on the abolition of the private prison system and the cycle of carcerality for people of color through legal representation for low-income communities of color. 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. Nayzak is a native Californian and lived in Morocco during her early education. 

Isabel B. Zuniga

Isabel Zúñiga

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. Her education, background, and experiences have solidified Isabel’s 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.