Meet the 2022 J.D. and LL.M. Postgraduate Public Interest Fellows

Columbia Law School graduates have received prestigious fellowships that support positions in public interest and public service organizations.

Lawn and picnic tables

This year’s cohort of fellows will draw on their wide range of experience working in social justice and human rights to focus on issues—including immigrants’ rights, reparations, capital punishment, cybersecurity, and environmental justice—at organizations around the world. In turn, the fellowships provide invaluable experience to the graduates as they launch their careers focused on serving the public good.

“These fellowships are a capstone to the many years of hard work the fellows have committed to public service,” says Erica Smock, dean for Social Justice Initiatives and Public Service Lawyering. The organizations hosting the fellows include Sanctuary for Families, the Clooney Foundation for Justice, the U.S. House of Representatives, and the International Legal Foundation, and Smock adds that “the breadth of the placements is particularly impressive considering the continued COVID-related complexities in the job market.” 

Below, meet some of the J.D. and LL.M. fellows and learn what drew them to their organizations and what they hope to achieve.

Interviews have been edited and condensed.

Ekaterina Alexandrovna Botchkareva

Ekaterina Botchkareva ’22

Name of Fellowship: Skadden Foundation Fellowship

Organization: Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition

Hometown: St. Louis Park, Minnesota

Ekaterina Botchkareva ’22 received a B.A. in economics and political science from Yale University. Before law school, she volunteered at a refugee community center in Calais, France, researched organized crime in Central America with InSight Crime, studied trends in Syrian refugee returns with iMMAP, and worked on pro bono immigration cases at Hughes Hubbard & Reed. At Columbia Law School, Botchkareva was an inaugural Public Interest/Public Service Fellow and participated in the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, the Columbia Journal of Race and Law, the Society for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and the Student Public Interest Network.

Why the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition? “CAIR Coalition is an incredible team of advocates, and I am honored to have the opportunity to learn from CAIR Coalition attorneys in my first job out of law school. Their staff are the ultimate experts in providing stellar representation, passionate advocacy, and sensitive care to individuals held in immigration detention across Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, and I could not imagine a better home for my fellowship project.”

Fellowship goals: “I hope to provide holistic representation for individuals experiencing health-harming conditions in immigration detention. Physical health and safety are a precondition to the vindication of the rights of multiply marginalized people, so I hope that by building long-lasting interdisciplinary partnerships between our team at CAIR Coalition and medical providers in the area, this project can meaningfully improve access to immigration relief for those who are held in government custody.”

Adam Chan

Adam Chan ’22

Name of Fellowship: J.D. Pathways Public Interest and Government Fellowship

Organization: U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Mike Gallagher, Wisconsin

Hometown: New York, New York

Adam Chan ’22 holds a B.A. in political theory from the University of Chicago. At the Law School, he was the inaugural student fellow of the National Security Law Program, a peer mentor for 1Ls, and editor of the Columbia Science and Technology Law Review. Chan was also a research assistant for Professors Philip C. Bobbitt, Matthew C. Waxman, and Philip Hamburger. He was a legal intern at the National Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and a summer associate in the international trade and national security practice of the Washington, D.C. office of Kirkland & Ellis. He is also a contributor to Lawfare, writing about national security law. After his fellowship, Chan will clerk for Judge Steven J. Menashi on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

Why the office of Rep. Gallagher? “In and out of law school, I have focused on the national security law issues that a rising China poses—particularly in a technologically and financially interconnected world. I believe that now is a critical moment in the competition with China and that Congress has a central role to play. Congressman Gallagher is a leader in the House on these issues—sponsoring or cosponsoring almost all major China-related legislation. Being able to work in his office on legislation regarding the technology competition with China is a dream.”

Fellowship goals: “I’m looking forward to putting my legal skills learned at Columbia to work drafting legislation. I also hope to learn more about the legislative process and how Congress functions—relations among members, between House and Senate, between Congress and the president, and Congress and industry or other outside groups—as I advocate for legislation. Ideally, I will have a positive impact on promoting U.S. national security at this critical moment.”

Alice Chan

Alice Chan ’22 LL.M.

Name of Fellowship: Mark Haas Public Interest Fellowship

Organization: REDRESS

Hometown: Hong Kong

Alice Chan ’22 LL.M. earned an LL.B. from the University College London and a master’s degree in business and management from the University of Law in London. Before coming to Columbia Law, she worked at Linklaters as a trainee solicitor, associate, global pro bono team secondee, and pro bono legal lead. Chan was also an international campaigner for Atlas Movement. At the Law School, she was a research assistant in the Human Rights Institute and an extern for the Urban Justice Center and New York City Commission on Human Rights. She also interned for the Latin America and Caribbean Division at the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative.

Why REDRESS? “During my time in private practice, I undertook a significant amount of pro bono work with REDRESS. This experience in no small part spurred my decision to leave private practice to pursue an LL.M. at Columbia for the purposes of transitioning to public interest and international human rights work. I am deeply inspired by the mission and legacy of REDRESS, whose work has been and continues to be so vital in both empowering survivor and victim communities by advocating for the rights of victims of torture at an international level and in holding to account state actors and policymakers for human rights abuses.”

Fellowship goals: “I will be working on a project concerning the provision of reparations to victims of conflict-related sexual- and gender-based violence as part of REDRESS’s discrimination programme. Looking ahead, I hope to dedicate my knowledge and experience to contributing to the international human rights and gender justice field, focusing on human rights abuses and developments in the East Asian and Southeast Asian regions.”

Bianca Chavez

Bianca Chavez ’22

Name of Fellowship: J.D. Pathways Public Interest and Government Fellowship

Organization: Phillips Black

Hometown: Madera, California

After earning a B.A. in political science and comparative studies in race and ethnicity from Stanford University, Bianca Chavez ’22 joined the Hillary for America campaign as a field organizer in Las Vegas and was a Teach for America middle school history teacher. At the Law School, she was an inaugural Public Interest/Public Service Fellow and managing director of the Human Rights Law Review. Chavez served as a law clerk for Texas Defender Service and participated in the family defense and criminal defense externship at Bronx Defenders. The summer before her 2L year, she served as a research assistant for Elizabeth Scott, Harold R. Medina Professor Emerita of Law, researching state and federal case law to be included in the new Restatement of Children and the Law project. After her fellowship, Chavez will clerk for Judge Leo T. Sorokin on the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

Why Phillips Black? “I first started working with Phillips Black during my 2L year as part of Professor Alexis Hoag’s Capital Post-Conviction Defense Practicum. I became deeply immersed in one of our client’s cases, and I chose to go back to Phillips Black for my fellowship so that I could continue working on this particular client’s case, as well as the cases of other clients like him.”

Fellowship goals: “I hope to strengthen my understanding of capital punishment law, which is notoriously complex and difficult. I hope to form relationships with my clients and make their lives a little bit more pleasant.”

Blánaid Ní Chearnaigh

Blánaid Ní Chearnaigh ’22 LL.M.

Name of Fellowship: LL.M. Pathways Public Interest and Government Fellowship

Organization: REDRESS

Hometown: Belfast, Ireland

Blánaid Ní Chearnaigh ’22 LL.M. earned an LL.B. from Trinity College Dublin and then worked as a pro bono researcher in the Office of the International Civil Party Lead Co-Lawyer at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. She also worked for Global Rights Compliance, U.N. Women, and the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute. At the Law School, Ní Chearnaigh was staff editor of the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, legal extern for the U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, and research assistant for the Clooney Foundation for Justice TrialWatch program. She was also research assistant to Martin Flaherty, Leitner Family Professor of Law and founding co-director of the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice at Fordham Law School. Ní Chearnaigh was recently awarded the Lord Mansfield Scholarship by the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn and will start her vocational training to qualify as a barrister in London following her fellowship.

Why REDRESS? “To my mind, it has never been more vital to refocus our efforts on victim-centered approaches to strategic litigation to challenge impunity, particularly where perpetrators are politically insulated from meaningful accountability. REDRESS has been at the forefront of developing holistic approaches to promoting access to justice and seeking reparations for survivors of torture in this regard.”

Fellowship goals: “This fellowship will serve as a springboard for me to develop strategic advocacy skills necessary to pursue a career in human rights law as well as to strengthen my understanding of how REDRESS combines domestic and international frameworks and legal action with public pressure. I hope that it will provide me with the opportunity to test litigation as a means to achieving accountability and to continue actively thinking about how prosecution initiatives can be leveraged to positively reinforce broader justice and policy reform.”

Raisa Elhadi

Raisa Elhadi ’22

Name of Fellowship: Global Public Service Fellowship

Organization: Reprieve US

Hometown: Chanhassen, Minnesota

Raisa Elhadi ’22 earned a B.A. in global studies from the University of Minnesota and volunteered with SB OverSeas, teaching English in Lebanon. At the Law School, she was an inaugural Public Interest/Public Service Fellow, Racial and Social Justice Fellow, Venable Public Interest Law Fellow, 1L Human Rights Advocate, and Pro Bono Scholar. Elhadi was active in Columbia Law Students for Palestine, Spring Break Pro Bono Caravans, Rightslink, and 1L Human Rights Advocates. She was a research assistant in the Smith Family Human Rights Clinic and Human Rights Institute and participated in the Constitutional Rights in Life and Death Penalty Cases and Center for Justice and Accountability externships. 

Why Reprieve US? “I wanted to work somewhere that models a radical approach to human rights and that unabashedly addresses the human rights violations perpetrated by the U.S. government and its allies. I also wanted to combine my passion for and experience in both international and domestic work, and Reprieve US works at the intersection of those two practice areas.”

Fellowship goals: “I hope to gain a comparative perspective on capital defense and on death penalty litigation and advocacy. I hope to hone my skills as a litigator so that I can continue to fight the death penalty and other human rights abuses in my career after the fellowship.”

Samuel Fishman

Sam Fishman ’22

Name of Fellowship: Kirkland & Ellis New York City Public Service Fellowship

Organization: Center for Appellate Litigation

Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland

Sam Fishman ’22 earned a B.A. in political economy from Tulane University, was a Fulbright English teaching assistant in Paraguay, and a project assistant at the National Democratic Institute. At Columbia Law, he was an inaugural Public Interest/Public Service Fellow and pro bono coordinator for the Human Rights Law Review’s Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual. Fishman interned for the Policing Project and UCLA Voting Rights Project, and he did externships with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Capital Post-Conviction Defense Practicum, and Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Law Unit.

Why the Center for Appellate Litigation (CAL)? “I chose the CAL Clemency Project to help its clients prepare persuasive clemency applications to submit to the governor. I am excited for the opportunity to develop a new project within such an extraordinary organization. I will work closely with our clients to prepare clemency applications that tell their stories in an empathetic and effective manner beyond purely legal arguments, including personal narration; fact research; and testimony from friends, family, and community members.”

Fellowship goals: “In my fellowship year, I would be grateful to win clemency for even a single CAL client. Beyond that, I hope to continue to grow as an attorney and learn how to serve as an effective advocate within the criminal immigration system. I look forward to learning more about how legal work can complement community organizing and other types of progressive advocacy.”

Ray Gdula

Ray Gdula ’22

Name of Fellowship: New York State Excelsior Service Fellowship

Organization: Office of the State Inspector General, New York City Regional Office

Hometown: Syracuse, New York

Ray Gdula ’22 received a B.A. in international relations from the State University of New York at Geneseo. At Columbia Law School, they were a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, managing editor of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review, and a member of OutLaws and First Generation Professionals. Gdula was an active member of the Smith Family Human Rights Clinic and interned for Oxfam America and the Supreme Court of the State of New York. They served as a research assistant for Olatunde C. Johnson, Jerome B. Sherman Professor of Law, researching post-COVID-19 developments in state law, intrastate preemption of local pro-immigration policies, and Fourteenth Amendment and civil rights challenges to intrastate preemption of local progressive policies.

Why the Office of the State Inspector General (OIG)? “The Excelsior Fellowship is an opportunity for me to bring together my enthusiasm for grappling with pressing legal issues and my commitment to active citizenship as a lifelong New Yorker. I am excited to develop my investigative skills at the OIG and to apply my human rights background to a more local context.”

Fellowship goals: “As an Excelsior Fellow, I will contribute to OIG’s mission of promoting transparency in government through in-depth investigations and analysis of alleged criminal wrongdoing, corruption, conflicts of interest, fraud, and abuse in New York State agencies. I will assist in managing OIG investigations as they progress, and I will work with agencies to improve policies and establish best practices.”

Maggie Hadley

Maggie Hadley ’22

Name of Fellowship: Herbert and Nell Singer Social Justice Fellowship 

Organization: Legal Aid Society Law Reform and Special Litigation Unit

Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

After graduating from Middlebury College with a B.A. in math, Maggie Hadley ’22 spent three years as an economic consultant at Analysis Group before applying to Columbia Law School and receiving a Hamilton Fellowship. At the Law School, she was the recipient of an Anti-Racism Grantmaking Program grant and the Race and Law Prize. She participated in the Abolition and Capital Post-Conviction Defense Practica and was a Center for Appellate Litigation extern; Suspension Representation Project 1L representative, president, and 3L advisor; and member of the National Lawyers Guild. Hadley was also a research assistant for Jeffrey A. Fagan, Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law, working on empirical research on police misconduct. After the fellowship, Hadley will clerk for Judge Gregory H. Woods on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Why the Legal Aid Society ​​Law Reform and Special Litigation Unit? “Because Legal Aid is a major provider of indigent legal services and has strong ties to grassroots groups, it takes its cues for impact litigation and policy advocacy directly from the communities it serves. The Law Reform and Special Litigation Unit has also long recognized the power of data analysis and data transparency to drive change, and I’m so excited to help expand that capacity.”

Fellowship goals: “I want to work with survivors of police abuse to secure meaningful redress, whether that means filing civilian complaints, filing notices of claim for lawsuits, or helping them publicize their stories. I also hope that I can use data analysis to help expose the pervasiveness of police misconduct and lack of accountability.”

Jessica Hawkins

Jessica Gadea Hawkins ’22 LL.M.

Name of Fellowship: LL.M. Pathways Public Interest and Government Fellowship

Organization: Sanctuary for Families

Hometown: Calgary in Alberta, Canada

Jessica Gadea Hawkins ’22 LL.M. earned a B.A. in English from Faculty of Humanities, University of Calgary, and a J.D. from Faculty of Common Law, University of Ottawa, with a concentration in social justice. She worked as a staff attorney for Legal Aid Ontario before coming to Columbia Law School to pursue an LL.M. She received a Columbia Anti-Racism grant and a Davis Polk Leadership Initiative grant, which she used to found the Restorative Justice Collective to expose and train law students in restorative justice practices. Gadea Hawkins was also a research assistant for Kendall Thomas, Nash Professor of Law, working on a critical race theory podcast. She was the secretary of the Columbia Student Disability Network, an LL.M. representative for a faculty appointments committee, and teaching assistant for the Criminal Defense Clinic taught by Amber Baylor, associate clinical professor of law.

Why Sanctuary for Families? “Sanctuary for Families is the largest organization in the United States working with gender-based violence survivors. Last semester I completed an internship with the Incarcerated Gender Violence Survivors Initiative at Sanctuary and gained an in-depth understanding of the issues faced by incarcerated individuals with histories of complex trauma. This fellowship is giving me the opportunity to continue the work I started. We have been building a women’s prison reform project, and I am excited to continue working with the organization’s incarcerated clients on policy reform and direct services.”

Fellowship goals: “I hope to learn as much as I can about prison policy reform and work toward decarcerating and supporting the needs of individuals currently incarcerated in women’s prisons. I am excited to keep developing my skill set in impact research and trauma-informed legal practice.”

Esther Kang

Esther Kang ’22

Name of Fellowship: New York State Excelsior Service Fellowship 

Organization: Department of Financial Services, Cybersecurity Division

Hometown: Southwick, Massachusetts

Esther Kang ’22 graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a B.A. in Spanish. She began pursuing a J.D. at the University of Iowa College of Law before transferring to Columbia. At the Law School, she was a law clerk for Liberty Mutual and a legal extern for the Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Law Unit. Kang was a staff member for the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law and a member of the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, and American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Why the Department of Financial Services, Cybersecurity Division? “I believe that having the privilege to shape policy within one’s own government is the strongest tool for advocacy and to create positive, more equitable change on a larger scale. State governments are often considered to be laboratories of democracy, and within the Department of Financial Services’ Cybersecurity Division, I will be part of a team crafting innovative solutions that are tailored to the needs of New York residents.”

Fellowship goals: “Ultimately, the government should reflect the people that it represents and be able to relate to the community that it serves. Diversity of opinion and background enriches the legal profession with more questions, analyses, and just outcomes. I am especially motivated to perform impactful policy work while simultaneously representing the Asian American community.”

Daniel Kim

Daniel Kim ’22

Name of Fellowship: J.D. Pathways Public Interest and Government Fellowship

Organization: U.S. Senate Finance Committee Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness

Hometown: Colorado Springs, Colorado

Daniel Kim ’22 received a B.A. in comparative literature from New York University. He spent much of his time at Columbia Law School pursuing international trade, human rights, and public service. He was the recipient of a Salzburg Global Seminar Lloyd N. Cutler Fellowship in International Law and participated in the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law. Kim also interned with the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary and the Office of the Chief Counsel for International Commerce at the U.S. Department of Commerce. He was a research assistant for Seyla Benhabib, scholar in residence and adjunct professor of law, working on international human rights, constitutionalism, and judicial review.

Why the U.S. Senate Finance Committee Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness? “We need some form of global governance that isn’t just about human rights but about equality, too. It is no longer possible to deal with the problems of international human rights without discussing the question of market integration and economic globalization. Greater international commitment and cooperation is necessary to achieve stability and security for some of the world’s most marginalized individuals. I decided to work for the Senate Finance Committee because it would allow me to focus on exactly this.”

Fellowship goals: “I am hoping to develop expertise in the international trade space and gain useful connections in Washington, D.C. I also hope to contribute to the missions of reengaging in the Asia-Pacific region through renewed consideration of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

Geesu Lee

Geesu Lee ’22

Name of Fellowship: Global Public Service Fellowship

Organization: Clooney Foundation for Justice

Hometown: Seoul, South Korea

After graduating from Middlebury College with a B.A. in economics, Geesu Lee ’22 spent three years in the Republic of Korea Armed Forces as a military officer. He had internships with the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights before coming to Columbia Law School as a Greene Public Service Scholar. At the Law School, he was an inaugural Public Interest/Public Service Fellow and participated in the Smith Family Human Rights Clinic and Pro Bono Scholars Program. Lee was a trial monitor at the Clooney Foundation for Justice during his 2L year and was an intern and pro bono scholar at the Safe Passage Project during his 3L year. 

Why the Clooney Foundation for Justice (CFJ)? “I had the privilege of collaborating with the Clooney Foundation for Justice as a TrialWatch project clinic student. I closely interacted with local activists and assisted CFJ in monitoring human rights violations by observing judicial proceedings in certain parts of Asia, where political freedom and relevant rights had been severely limited. I had become deeply interested in CFJ’s unique project, which led me to choose CFJ as my host organization for the Global Public Service Fellowship.”

Fellowship goals: “I plan to conduct extensive fact-finding regarding human rights violations and contribute to human rights advocacy while also managing relationships with local civil society organizations, engaging the public through the press, and carrying out strategic planning for CFJ’s TrialWatch project. Realizing what could be accomplished with human rights advocacy, I am eager to pave my career path through the Global Public Service Fellowship and learn to use legal tools on behalf of others.”

Tanner Lockhead

Tanner Lockhead ’22

Name of Fellowship: J.D. Pathways Public Interest and Government Fellowship

Organization: NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

Hometown: Durham, North Carolina

Tanner Lockhead ’22 graduated from Duke University with an A.B. in public policy and political science and then worked at the Community Empowerment Fund in North Carolina. At Columbia, he participated in the Community Advocacy Lab, focusing on access to justice in civil courts, where he also served as a teaching fellow. Lockhead was an articles editor for the Human Rights Law Review, president of the Columbia Criminal Justice Action Network, public interest chair of OutLaws, and a coach and competitor for the Gender and Sexuality Law Moot Court. He participated in the racial justice externship at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, interned at the U.S. Department of Justice in the Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section, and was a summer associate at WilmerHale in Washington, D.C. After the fellowship, Lockhead will clerk for Judge Jane Richards Roth on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. 

Why the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF)? “When I was a child, I remember learning about Thurgood Marshall, Brown v. Board of Education, and the LDF lawyers and activists who broke the back of Jim Crow. To start my legal career as a civil rights lawyer at LDF—the same organization that first inspired my interest in law—is an honor beyond measure.”

Fellowship goals: “There is so much urgent and important work—my hope is just to be as helpful as possible. I can’t imagine anywhere more exciting to learn to be a lawyer.”

Bridgett McCoy

Bridgett McCoy ’22

Name of Fellowship: David W. Leebron Human Rights Fellowship

Organization: Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense

Hometown: Barrington, Rhode Island

Bridgett McCoy ’22 graduated from Bowdoin College with a B.A. in environmental studies and Spanish literature. She was an environmental compliance consultant with the U.S. Agency for International Development and a field organizer for the Maine Democratic Party. At the Law School, McCoy was a Human Rights Law Review notes editor, pro bono chair and 3L representative of the Environmental Law Society, social justice chair of the Society for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and a participant in the Asylum Moot Court. She also participated in the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic and the New York Attorney General’s Office social and environmental justice externship.

Why the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA)? “I came to law school to begin a client-centered environmental law career. AIDA is one of the leading Latin American organizations that addresses environmental and human rights abuses caused by corporations and employs a communities-first movement lawyering approach. The goal of the organization is to work with frontline communities to build legal precedents that promote indigenous self-governance and environmental protection.” 

Fellowship goals: “With AIDA, I will support the human rights team with case investigation and preparation of litigation documents. My first primary project will be supporting the human rights team as they prepare for oral arguments in January 2023 in a case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. (AIDA is representing the Peruvian community of Oroya against the Peruvian Ministry of Health and the General Manager of Environmental Health for the pollution caused by the state mining company and by private companies for their metallurgical operations in the Oroya community.) After the court date, my duties will shift to supporting AIDA’s campaign for climate justice for women in Central America.”

Jumpei Nagaoka

Jumpei Nagaoka ’22 LL.M.

Name of Fellowship: Global Public Service Fellowship

Organization: Danish Institute for Human Rights

Hometown: Kyoto, Japan

Jumpei Nagaoka ’22 LL.M. graduated from Kyoto University Faculty of Law with a bachelor of laws degree and from the University of Tokyo School of Law with a J.D. He was a legal apprentice at the Legal Training and Research Institute of Japan before joining Nishimura & Asahi as an associate in Tokyo. He went on to join the Vietnam office of the firm before becoming deputy secretary general (pro bono) at Human Rights Now in Tokyo. At Columbia Law, he was a founding member of the ​​Corporate Responsibility Association and an extern at the Corporate Accountability Lab.

Why Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR)? “Considering my experience as a lawyer advising businesses on human rights and labor issues in Asia, I believe the institute, which has engaged with businesses for years to solve various human rights issues in developing countries, is the ideal host organization for my fellowship. My research at Columbia in business and human rights seminars is highly relevant to the institute’s responsible business project for the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business (a prominent NGO based in Myanmar), which is also one of the reasons why I chose the DIHR.” 

Fellowship goals: “My goals are to learn how to implement business and human rights norms in difficult business environments, including the conflict zones such as Myanmar; to gain valuable experience of engagement with key Asian stakeholders; and to understand industry-specific human rights issues of the technology sector, agriculture and fisheries, etc., and how to address those issues.”

Stephanie Nnadi

Stephanie Nnadi ’22

Name of Fellowship: Millstein Public Service Fellowship

Organization: White House Counsel’s Office

Hometown: Columbus, Ohio

Stephanie Nnadi ’22 graduated with a B.S. in political science and psychology from the Ohio State University. Before applying to law school, she was a Senate page and administrative assistant in the Ohio Senate, a congressional intern for Rep. Joyce Beatty, and a volunteer for Court Appointed Special Advocates of Franklin County, Ohio. At the Law School, Nnadi received a Columbia Anti-Racism grant and co-founded the Columbia Law School Pathways Program. She was an intern in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, development and media editor of the Columbia Law Review, and an inaugural Public Interest/Public Service Fellow. Nnadi also volunteered for the Election Protection Hotline and the Georgia Democratic Party Voter Protection Team. 

Why the White House Counsel’s Office? “I came to Law School hoping to pursue a career at the intersection of public policy, politics, and the law. A fellowship at the White House Counsel’s Office allows me to live out those aspirations. Moreover, the work of the executive branch, setting the national agenda on issues and nominating public leaders to every echelon of government, presents an astounding learning opportunity as well as a chance to do good.”

Fellowship goals: “I am excited to gain more insight into the operations of executive-level officials. Further, this moment in time provides a unique and remarkable opportunity to work for the White House, as our nation works to rebuild itself following years of divisiveness and a global pandemic. I look forward to being able to make a contribution, whether big or small, toward mending our country. Finally, I hope the fellowship will contribute to my development as a government lawyer, equip me with the tools needed to be an effective advocate, and prepare me for a career in public service.”

Faiz Pirani

Faiz Pirani ’22

Name of Fellowship: New York State Excelsior Service Fellowship

Organization: Department of Financial Services, Consumer Examination Unit

Hometown: Marietta, Georgia

After graduating with a B.A. in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles, Faiz Pirani ’22 worked as an immigration services intern with the International Rescue Committee. During his time at Columbia Law, he worked on unemployment insurance issues through an externship with the Center for Popular Democracy and assisted New York City Housing Authority tenants in the Community Advocacy Lab. Pirani was also a teaching assistant for Elizabeth F. Emens, Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law, and was a member of the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association and OutLaws.

Why the Department of Financial Services, Consumer Examination Unit? “I chose the Excelsior Fellowship because I am interested in launching a career in public service and think New York City would be a great place to start that work. I’m hoping that a position with the state government will enable me to serve New Yorkers with the tools available to state employees while advocating for more justice-oriented policies.”

Fellowship goals: “After passing the bar and becoming a licensed attorney, I hope to learn as much as I can about the work that I’ll be doing during my fellowship so that I can best take advantage of the training opportunities available to us once the fellowship begins. Beyond building a community among the fellows and within our workplace, I hope to feel more connected with the people I’ll be living near and to start finding ways to give back to the community outside of work.”

Rachel Seller

Rachel Seller ’22

Name of Fellowship: Ishiyama Transparency in Government Fellowship 

Organization: NPR

Hometown: Omaha, Nebraska

Rachel Seller ’22 earned a B.S. in international history and German from the United States Military Academy and was commissioned into the Corps of Engineers, where she served for eight years. At Columbia Law, she was business editor of the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law and teaching assistant to Katherine M. Franke, James L. Dohr Professor of Law. Seller had summer internships with NPR and the Department of Justice’s Office of Information Policy. She also participated in the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts externship. 

Why NPR? “Ethical, quality journalism is key to solving a lot of our problems; people can’t get involved or make informed voting choices if they don’t know what’s happening. Especially in this age of misinformation, it’s so important to have people dedicated to figuring out what’s really going on. Besides that, NPR is full of journalists who are excellent at their jobs. I like their nonprofit business model and that it’s funded by a huge network of local stations.”

Fellowship goals: “I’m looking forward to digging into the journalistic side and helping them tell stories. My primary goal is to help journalists obtain the government records and court documents they’re entitled to. Otherwise, I just want to learn as much as I can about the First Amendment and media law.”

Stuti Shah

Stuti Shah ’22 LL.M.

Name of Fellowship: LL.M. Pathways Public Interest and Government Fellowship

Organization: Reprieve US 

Hometown: Bangalore, India

After graduating from the National Academy of Legal Studies and Research in Hyderabad, India, with a B.A. and LL.B., Stuti Shah ’22 LL.M. joined Trilegal’s Bangalore office while also serving as adjunct faculty at Mount Carmel College. At Columbia Law, Shah was a staffer on the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, board member of the Criminal Justice Action Network and the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, and an extern for the Sanctuary for Families’ Incarcerated Gender Violence Survivors Initiative. She was also a research assistant to Susan P. Sturm, George M. Jaffin Professor of Law and Social Responsibility, working on policy surrounding incarceration. After the fellowship, Shah will be joining Columbia Law School’s J.S.D. program. 

Why Reprieve US? “Incarcerated individuals are routinely subject to police brutality, while their causes are under-represented in democratic and political spaces. In this regard, I believe that the unique human rights work that I would be doing at Reprieve US—specifically that of defending foreign nationals on death row—is urgent and largely neglected. Reprieve US will also allow me to engage with policy organizations in South Asian countries who are advocating for the repeal of capital punishment in their respective countries.” 

Fellowship goals: “I hope to hone my legal and interpersonal skills to reimagine law as trauma-informed, compassionate, and antidiscriminatory. I would also try to equip myself with the tools to further understand and practice transformative and restorative forms of justice.”

Sanjana Srikumar

Sanjana Srikumar ’22 LL.M.

Name of Fellowship: Global Public Service Fellowship

Organization: Access Now

Hometown: New Delhi, India

After graduating with a B.A. and LL.B. from the National Law University, Jodhpur, in India, Sanjana Srikumar ’22 LL.M. has been focusing on strategic human rights litigation on behalf of people’s movements in the Indian Supreme Court and Delhi High Court. She was mentored by Sanjay Parikh, senior advocate at the Supreme Court of India, and was affiliated with organizations such as Internet Freedom Foundation, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, and Media-Legal Defence Initiative. At Columbia Law, Srikumar was a project teaching assistant for the Center for Public Research and Leadership; participated in the Sanctuary for Families externship; was a member of the Movement Lawyering Squad, Law for Black Lives; and served as a research assistant for Bernard E. Harcourt, Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science. 

Why Access Now? “Access Now is an international human rights organization dedicated to defending and extending the digital rights of users at risk all over the world. Because I also received the Programmatic Legal Fellowship at Access Now, I look forward to accessing their mentorship, as well as [being involved] in the #KeepItOn coalition, which monitors internet shutdowns throughout the world, and the Digital Rights Litigators Network.”

Fellowship goals: “I look forward to centering socioeconomic rights in the broader internet governance framework. I am excited about the model of international human rights law at Access Now and its interest in community building. . . .  I hope to draw on my own experience with movement lawyering in India to participate in this process and shift power in international human rights law from Western European and American legal institutions to grassroots community advocates globally. I also hope to expand on what I found in my year at Columbia—an increasingly global community of allies, comrades, and friends to turn to and learn from.”

Ninni Susan Thomas

Ninni Thomas ’22 LL.M.

Name of Fellowship: LL.M. Pathways Public Interest and Government Fellowship

Organization: International Legal Foundation

Hometown: Kerala, India

Ninni Thomas ’22 LL.M. graduated from the National Law University, Jodhpur, in India with a B.A. and LL.B. She was a litigation associate for Senior Advocate Sanjay Parikh in Delhi, India; a litigation associate for Project39A, National Law University, Delhi; and a legislative assistant for Binoy Viswam, a member of the Parliament of India. At Columbia Law School, she was a Fulbright scholar and member of the Student Public Interest Network, Society for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and Rightslink. Thomas was a research assistant for Bernard E. Harcourt, Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science, and Omavi Shukur, associate research scholar and lecturer in law. As part of the Abolition: A Social Justice Practicum, she was a researcher for Law for Black Lives and drafted a petition to U.N. Special Rapporteurs, along with Professor Harcourt. Thomas also participated in the Sexuality and Gender Law Practicum and a Spring Break Pro Bono Caravan with the California Appellate Project. She completed an externship with Phillips Black, a nonprofit law practice that represents prisoners on death row pro bono. 

Why the International Legal Foundation (ILF)? “My past work experiences with vulnerable communities have shown me the effects of dismal access to justice and the poor quality of legal aid lawyering due to systemic challenges, which is exacerbated by lack of institutional engagement. The fellowship will give me the chance to work with the ILF in multiple jurisdictions in Asia on these issues and find ways to increase capacity and accountability within the legal aid system and strengthen the rights of vulnerable communities.”

Fellowship goals: “My work will focus on areas in which I plan on working on after my fellowship—representing women, children, and other vulnerable populations—including the death penalty, strengthening the legal aid system, illegal detention, torture, and forced confessions. It will give me an unparalleled opportunity to innovate solutions to endemic issues in challenging jurisdictions as well as create networks that will help me. My fellowship year will allow me to collaboratively assimilate skills that will aid me in becoming a strategic and effective social justice lawyer and to employ my learnings in my future work.”

Anna Van Niekerk

Anna M.B. Van Niekerk ’22

Name of Fellowship: J.D. Pathways Public Interest and Government Fellowship

Organization: Global Witness

Hometowns: Johannesburg, South Africa, and Bethesda, Maryland

Anna M.B. Van Niekerk ’22 earned a B.A. in art history, politics, and French from New York University and then became a research consultant for Calabar Consulting and Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism. At Columbia Law, she was a legal intern for the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment, Human Rights First, and the Southern Africa Litigation Centre. Van Niekerk was also an articles editor for the Human Rights Law Review, a representative on the student advisory committee of the Human Rights Institute, and a 1L representative and public interest and human rights committee co-chair of the Columbia Society for International Law. 

Why Global Witness? “My plan has always been to use my law degree to combat corporate corruption and malfeasance in natural resource investments, particularly in the Global South, a context in which corporations enjoy a high degree of impunity. I believe strongly that corruption and human rights abuse are two sides of the same coin, and I’m interested in how the two compound one another. Global Witness is a leader in the fight against corruption and for corporate accountability, and this fellowship will therefore give me an opportunity to start figuring out the best ways to combat the status quo and hold companies active in extractive, specifically fossil fuel, industries to the highest standards of human rights and environmental justice.”

Fellowship goals: “I’ll be primarily working with the organization’s gas team to pursue current strategies and explore and develop new avenues for challenging corporate greenwashing in the fossil fuel industry. I’ll have a chance to use and expand on my legal and investigative skills while achieving a better understanding of how corporate giants like Chevron and Exxon get away with lies and obfuscations regarding their impact on our changing environment.”

Brandon Vines

Brandon Vines ’22

Name of Fellowship: Sandler Fellowship

Organization: Human Rights Watch

Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

After receiving a B.A. in world history and cultures from Kennesaw State University, Brandon Vines ’22 worked at the Carter Center’s Syria Conflict Mapping Project and for the Democracy Program, focusing on elections and electoral violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Myanmar. At the Law School, he was an inaugural Public Interest/Public Service Fellow, Racial and Social Justice Fellow, Academic Scholar, and James Kent Scholar. Vines was a 1L advocate, served as a 1L assistant to the Human Rights Clinic (now Smith Family Human Rights Clinic), and spent his 2L year working on the clinic’s Central African Republic war crimes accountability project. In his 3L year, he was a legal fellow at the Policing Project and externed with WITNESS.

Why Human Rights Watch? “I am driven to make state systems stop and listen—really listen—to the people whose lives they affect. That is what brought me to Columbia, and that is why I want to begin my career at Human Rights Watch. Human Rights Watch is at the vanguard of not just monitoring human rights violations but in giving a platform to survivors of violations to effect meaningful change on the national and global stage.”

Fellowship goals: “During my fellowship year, I hope to learn how to center clients in my advocacy work. I am excited to learn not just how to identify and research human rights violations but to document and investigate them in a sustainable and positive manner.”

Allen Wang

Allen Wang ’22

Name of Fellowship: J.D. Pathways Public Interest and Government Fellowship

Organization: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Hometown: Shanghai, China

Allen Wang ’22 received a B.A. in history and political science from the University of Toronto, University College. At Columbia Law School, he was head managing editor of the Columbia Journal of European Law and a member of the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association and Columbia Society of International Law. He was a legal intern for the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University School of Law and for the U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. Wang was also a legal extern for the Legal Aid Society, Civil Division, working with immigration unit attorneys. 

Why the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)? “The opportunity with the Protection and Solutions Unit at UNHCR [will allow me to] better understand and use international law in a domestic and regional context to serve the needs of vulnerable populations. . . . UNHCR in Washington, D.C., is tasked with ensuring that U.S. law and policy meets the country’s obligations under international refugee law, through pragmatic litigation and advocacy—a mandate that, uniquely among comparable agencies, has been recognized in U.S. courts through its special role in the Refugee Convention. The war in Ukraine—among many other ongoing humanitarian crises—has underscored how important a role UNHCR has in coordinating international responses to adequately and fairly serve the needs of asylum seekers, stateless persons, and others displaced from their homes.”

Fellowship goals: “I hope my work as a fellow can make a contribution to the well-being of asylum seekers, stateless persons, and others in the United States and around the region in light of the chronic and emergent issues they are facing. I also want to learn how a unique organization like UNHCR identifies and handles advocacy priorities and to engage with NGO and government stakeholders/partners on those matters.”

Manny Zhang

Manny Zhang ’22 LL.M.

Name of Fellowship: LL.M. Pathways Public Interest and Government Fellowship

Organization: Center for Economic and Social Rights

Hometown: Sydney, Australia

Manny Zhang ’22 LL.M. graduated from the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia with a B.A. in Spanish and an LL.B. She worked as an attorney at Legal Aid NSW, ​​representing clients in civil and family law, and Redfern Legal Centre, managing a health justice partnership at the Sydney Dental Hospital. Zhang also served as a NSW Convenor of Australian Lawyers for Human Rights and has advocated for reform in the areas of reproductive justice, policing, and immigration law. At the Law School, she served on the student board of Rightslink and was editor of the Columbia Journal of Race and Law. Zhang was an extern with the Center for Economic and Social Rights and participated in the Community Advocacy Lab. She was also a research assistant for A. Kayum Ahmed, lecturer in law and assistant professor at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, and with the Human Rights Institute.

Why the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR)? “As the climate crisis continues to drive violations of economic and social rights and increase inequality around the world, the role of organizations like CESR working at the intersection of human rights and economic and environmental justice has become more critical than ever. As a fellow with CESR, I will have the opportunity to gain practical experience developing holistic advocacy strategies in partnership with those leading the call for economic and climate justice. This will enable me to develop the interdisciplinary skill set I need to effectively advocate for human rights in the face of global health, climate, and economic crises.”

Fellowship goals: “My goal is to deepen my understanding of climate justice issues and closely analyze how they intersect with economic and racial justice as well as strengthen my capacity for interdisciplinary collaboration. I also hope to further develop my research and advocacy skills so that I can advance economic and social rights in more strategic and creative ways.”

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

Postgraduate fellowships offered through Columbia Law School are made possible in part by the support of our alumni and friends.