Susannah ‘Suz’ Kroeber ’21: Changing the World One Word at a Time

Kroeber shares why the pandemic bolstered her interest in economic justice and what the law means to her. 

Hometowns: Beijing; New York City

Law for me is . . . “arbitrary, and what I mean by that is law is just an accumulation of words, it’s an accumulation of rules that we put down on the page, or that judges have put down on the page, and we come to law school to learn how all of those things are going to work in this uniform pattern that is predictable and gives us certainty. And then throughout the course of law school, if you’re like me and most of my friends, you discover that that’s not true at all. . . . You have to be prepared for all of the different directions that the law can go, because every time the law changes, the world changes. Words can change the world.” 

Law in the time of COVID: Kroeber was an eighth grader living in Beijing during the 2003 SARS outbreak. That experience and now the COVID crisis have “laid bare all of the issues around economic inequality: Who is an essential worker? Who are the workers that need protections? They’re often the ones that have the fewest employment protections and the least access to health care,” she says. “The COVID pandemic has really bolstered my desire to be an economic justice lawyer.”

Why Columbia? “Columbia is a place where you can figure out in real time what kind of public interest lawyer you want to be because you’re going to be allowed to practice,” says Kroeber. Participating in the Community Advocacy Lab, she says, pushed her to “get out there and do the thing as opposed to just talking about the thing. It is an enormous privilege that people are letting you come into their lives with real issues and be there to advocate for them, but also to learn from them.” 

Love and marriage: Kroeber and her wife, Natasha L. Coleman, a surgery resident at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, were busy preparing for their May 2020 wedding when the pandemic upended everything. “We were worried that we weren’t going to be able to get married at all,” says Kroeber. But despite the shutdown, they were able to get a marriage license and on May 16, 2020, tied the knot in Manhattan’s Fort Tryon Park with friends and family joining the celebration via Zoom.

Honors and activities: Innovation Grant recipient, Davis Polk Leadership Initiative; Harlan Fiske Stone scholar; pro bono chair, Columbia Journal of Tax Law; treasurer, OutLaws.

Next steps: After graduation, Kroeber will be working at Bronx Legal Services as a housing attorney.