IRLS Summer Interns Promote Rule of Law from Afar

Jacob Kostrzewski. Jacob is the Program Coordinator for the International Rule of Law and Security Program at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.

IRLS Summer Interns listening to Judge Jerlie Requerme discuss access to justice in the Philippines.

Thirteen ASU Law JD and MLS students are spending Summer 2020 working with non-governmental organizations and national human rights institutions in Timor-Leste, South Africa, and the Philippines, and on a project with the IRLS program, to promote human rights, good governance, and the rule of law. While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has prevented students from traveling to their host countries this summer, the student interns are working remotely with their teams and supervisors to contribute to the work of their organizations. Students will travel to their host countries, meet their colleagues, and see the impact of their work in person once it is safe to do so.

A few summer interns are also working with IRLS program faculty and staff, and lawyers, human rights defenders, and law students in other countries to develop and launch a platform that will monitor the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the judicial systems in a number of countries around the world. The platform will feature research, analysis, and reports on access to justice and related issues in these countries.

Meet the summer interns below and read more about what motivated them to apply for these internships:

Alexandra Eagle (JD ’22): Undergraduate studies in cultural anthropology, economics, and women and gender studies cultivated a passion for critical examination of the ways that systems and policies affect people’s lived experiences. This passion ultimately brought me to law school. I am excited to be contributing the skills learned during my 1L year as a summer legal intern with the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa; I particularly admire the way this organization centers intersectional feminism in their work, and I’m curious to hear from other professionals about their approaches to social justice, and where their work intersects with identity politics, and local organizing.

Sharon Foster (JD ’22): I am originally from upstate New York, but I spent most of my life going between upstate New York and Virginia Beach, VA. When I was 18 years old, I moved to New York City. During my time in NYC, I worked at the International Students and Study Abroad office at Pace University and I fell in love with learning about other cultures. Additionally, my aunt’s work had a summer exchange student program with students from Russia and other Eastern European countries. She would often send students to stay with me for a week so that they could see New York. During undergrad, I also took a course about the United Nations which allowed me to spend two days meeting people who work at the UN from different countries. These experiences solidified my interests in International Human Rights Law. I decided to pursue this internship so that I could gain practical experience in this area.

Victoria Hawley (JD ’22): As a Latina who grew up in a predominantly white small Iowa town, my only connection to my heritage was through the stories of mis abuelos (my grandparents). Since I was very young, I’ve desired to work in a profession that helps people and communities and to do so in an international context and fill mis abuelos’ shoes. I began my professional career as a public school teacher and I witnessed the innumerable hardships faced by my primarily immigrant students and families which sent me quickly to law school to affect systemic change. I aim to build and to learn from communities both domestically and internationally in order to foster unity, safety, and equity.

Maria Hodge (JD ’22): I am a rising third year law student and a Fellow with the International Rule of Law and Security (IRLS) program. This summer, I am interning for the Commission on Human Rights in the Philippines, researching legislation and litigation related to human rights and climate change. My interests include legislative drafting, international humanitarian law, and the regulation of innovative technologies. I would like to learn more about how human rights work is conducted in other countries and about the process of policy development on the national/international scale. I would also like to learn more about the career opportunities in various fields of international law. 

Ryan McCoy (JD ’22): I have been interested in international law, particularly with regards to Latin America, since I spent a year debating US trade policy in the region while in high school. I pursued that interest further while in college at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, and even spent a semester studying abroad in Ecuador during that time. I took this internship because I was excited to work in Colombia and assist clients there who ordinarily couldn’t afford quality legal services. Now that plans have changed for this summer, I am particularly interested in learning about rule of law as it applies to Latin America, but I am certainly interested in learning a global perspective as well.

Sonia Niekrasz (JD ’22): I was born in Poland and came to the United States when I was nineteen years old. During the early years of living in New York, I got a chance to learn about the American justice system and how different it was from the one I was familiar with. That and other experiences encouraged me to learn more about the law and see how different countries dealt with issues I was facing as an immigrant in the United States. Further reading of the law allowed me to see beyond immigration issues, and now I would like to learn of more profound aspects of the rule of law throughout the world. 

Brianna Pachuilo (JD ’22): My interest in human rights began in grade school when my family provided monthly medical clinics to impoverished communities in Mexico. I loved experiencing a new culture, but was also deeply disturbed by the lack of basic necessities. In high school I was interested in a legal career, but it wasn’t until college that I learned the powerful role lawyers can play in protecting human rights and creating sustainable change.

Isabella Ruggeri (JD ’21): I was born and raised in Brazil and completed my undergraduate degree in Canada. I am very interested in international human rights law, especially gender and sexuality issues. I also have a growing interest in international humanitarian law. I have worked for the Judicial System Monitoring Program (JSMP) in Dili, Timor-Leste, Human Rights Campaign in Washington, DC, and I am currently interning for the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa.

Carter Santini (JD ’22): I am a Phoenix local who is passionate about using the rule of law to build stronger and more equal communities. I have always had an interest in thinking globally and researching new ways to view the world which drew me to this experience. I am curious about ways to enhance the global legal system to better protect human rights.

Murwareed (Mary) Sulaiman (MLS ’20): I have a background in financial analysis as I worked in financial reporting for over two years following the completion of my undergraduate degree. During my time as a financial analyst, I decided to apply the skills I learned as an analyst to pursue my interest in the legal field. I am especially interested in the role of women’s rights in developing countries as well as genocide. I seek to gain international legal experience while working to make a positive change abroad.

Priyal Thakkar (JD ’22): I have always been experimenting with media to push for accountability – be it as a brief stint as a journalist or co-founding my city’s first spoken word collective that gave survivors of sexual abuse a safe platform and the tools to reclaim their identity and their narratives. My work led me to the Center for Social Justice (CSJ), a human rights NGO where I had the privilege of working for some of India’s top human rights lawyers. CSJ reaffirmed my belief that the law was the best instrument available to me to achieve the kind of change I wanted to build. I am interested in comparative international jurisprudence as it builds on demonstratively successful subversive strategies to create a common social justice toolkit and want to learn more about how this global give-and-take effectuates change more locally.

Jason Wood (JD ’22): I’m a non-traditional student from Canada. After a 20+ year career in IT I finally made the decision to shift my focus to the law, something I’ve wanted to do for many years. I’ve always had an interest in international politics and foreign affairs and recently became interested in learning how countries are transitioning from traditional justice systems to a more structured, formal rule of law.

Kara Woods (JD ’21): I have a background in anthropology that lets me see just how personally different legal policies affected the rights of people. I have experience with Hmong immigrant communities and government watch in Timor-Leste. I hope to learn all I can about the many ways to help people live a life safe and secure in their rights.


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