IRLS Director Julia Fromholz departs ASU Law to become executive director of CEELI Institute

IRLS Director and Professor of Practice Julia Fromholz is leaving ASU Law at the end of 2021 to serve as the next Executive Director of the Central and Eastern European Law Initiative (CEELI) Institute in Prague, Czech Republic. She sat down with the IRLS Dispatch to talk about her time at ASU Law, the impact she has had on the IRLS program, and what she looks forward to most at CEELI. 

IRLS Dispatch: When did you join ASU Law? How did you hope to expand and transform the IRLS program?

Professor Fromholz: I joined ASU Law six years ago, not long after I left the Department of State. I arrived about a year after Ambassador Clint Williamson, so the program was still very new. Along with Ambassador Williamson and the law school administration, I wanted to increase the number of students who saw spending a semester or year in Washington as a good fit for them, which meant adding classes and opportunities to get relevant experience outside the classroom. In addition, I hoped to test the idea that a U.S. law school could effectively lead a development program with law schools and organizations overseas.

Dispatch: The IRLS program provides unique opportunities to ASU Law students interested in this area of the law. What aspects of the program’s activities do you think have been most helpful to students interested in this field?

Fromholz: Students particularly seem to enjoy the summer internships and the international crisis simulation exercises. Both activities are fun (if stressful too) and give students intense experience in work they might do after law school.


Dispatch: In 2019, you founded the International Summer Internships program, which allows IRLS students to work with non-governmental organizations and national human rights bodies in developing countries. What did you hope students would gain from these experiences? Do you think this program, now entering its fourth year, has been successful?

Fromholz: My goal was to make it easy for ASU Law students, whether they had international experience or none at all, to work for overseas organizations doing excellent work in the human rights and rule of law fields. I wanted students to be able to learn about some of the obstacles to protecting the rule of law, and to use skills and knowledge they’d gained in law school to contribute to the work of their host organization. Our interns do legal work but inevitably learn about communication across cultures and other skills not taught in law school. I am very much hoping pandemic conditions allow students to go overseas again this coming summer.


Dispatch: What are some of your favorite memories from your time as the IRLS Director and as a professor of practice at ASU Law?

Fromholz: My favorite memories always come down to people. I could fill pages with them, but a few follow. Watching a colleague turn a class of female Pakistani law students from too shy to ask questions to fully engaged in a role-playing exercise. Seeing our interns warmly welcomed by JSMP in May 2019, with a party full of dancing and homemade food. Meeting students as 1Ls or even as prospective students and watching them thrive as they undertook classes and fascinating internships and externships. Working with colleagues as the pandemic took over to ensure that students’ experiences were as good as they possibly could be. Teaching in person again. Learning about students’ goals and trying to help them achieve them. Working with—and learning from—smart, hilarious, talented colleagues who are committed to making ASU Law a terrific place to be a law student.


Dispatch: What are you most looking forward to as the next Executive Director of the Central and Eastern European Law Initiative (CEELI) Institute?

Fromholz: It’s an exciting opportunity to lead an organization that does great work in this field. I’m also eager to explore the Czech Republic and its region, and to meeting and working with judges, lawyers, and civil society activists working to improve their justice systems and protect people’s rights.


Dispatch: Do you have any final thoughts you would like to share?

Fromholz: I’m hoping to build ties between ASU Law and the CEELI Institute, so I hope to see ASU colleagues and students in Prague before too long.

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