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Gates Public Service Law Scholars

Gates PSL Scholars have the opportunity to attend the UW School of Law and then pursue public interest law without the crushing burden of educational debt. The scholarship program covers all cost of tuition, books, room and board and incidental expenses during law school. In exchange, students dedicate five years to public service. Each of the Gates PSL Scholarship recipients say the chance to earn a law degree from one of the finest schools in the nation free of any debt is a dream come true. The financial assistance provided by the scholarship allows them to move directly into jobs doing what they love – providing public service to those in need.

Michael GeogheganMichael Geoghegan - 2007 Scholar

An honors graduate from Brown University, Geoghegan has worked the past seven years to address the impact of global production shifts on local economies. A native of upstate New York, he grew up in a region that weathered long-term recession.

Geoghegan worked as a community and labor organizer, moving to Oregon in 2001 where he directed the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign. There, he created the Stories Project, which led him to a year and a half of traveling across the Northwest to talk to over one hundred small business owners, family farmers, and laid-off workers.

His work on job-loss grew out of prior experience as a union representative. During a meeting with a company with plans to outsource 400 jobs to Mexico, Geoghegan said he knew he needed to go to law school if he wanted to change the economic landscape.

"It was frustrating to sit at the bargaining table negotiating lay-offs and concessions instead of dealing with policies and legislation that enable outsourcing in the first place," he said. "With a law degree, I could apply my social justice skills at the policy and legislative level."

Meena JagannathMeena Jagannath - 2007 Scholar

Jagannath received her bachelor’s degree in international relations and peace and justice studies from Tufts University and then went on to the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, where she received her master’s degree. She has worked for the last five years with various international human rights organizations, including her present position with the United Nations Development Fund for Women.

For Jagannath, it was a childhood visit to her parents’ native India that first raised her awareness of social injustice. Coming face-to-face with extreme poverty was a profound experience, but it was working with lawyers on a genocide case in Guatemala, she said, that inspired her to go to law school.

"It was clear to me that human rights issues are underpinned by the law. My master’s gave me the background to understand the fundamental theories on which human rights are based. A law degree will give me additional tools to strengthen the voice of the disenfranchised."

She hopes to continue to work with human rights and juvenile justice issues, particularly those that affect urban youth, both domestically and abroad.

Salmun KazerounianSalmun Kazerounian - 2007 Scholar

Iranian political dissidents, Kazerounian's parents arrived in the U.S. in 1978 with a dream of someday returning to their homeland. It is his parents' intense commitment to justice and human rights that he said has stayed with him his whole life. He attended the first of many demonstrations at the age of five.

"Like my parents, I have not pretended to be neutral," he said. "I will use a legal education to defend the interests of the ignored, forsaken, and oppressed, who are neither few nor far."

Kazerounian, who will graduate from the University of Connecticut in May, has worked for a number of social justice causes, including labor, human rights, the environment, community and student empowerment, and accessibility and diversity in education. He also serves as undergraduate student representative to the UConn Board of Trustees.

"I arrived at the decision to go to law school because it provides a very useful toolbox for advancing social justice-related causes," he said. It was the commitment to public service through offering the Gates Scholarship that led him to apply to the UW School of Law.

"Every single student at every university ought to have access to free higher education."

Jennifer Krencicki BarcelosJennifer Krencicki Barcelos - 2007 Scholar

Active on environmental issues since childhood, Barcelos became particularly drawn to the intersection of war and the environment as an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, after learning of evidence that linked the Dust Bowl to WWI.

"After that, I became fascinated with the environmental impacts of conflict and how environmental atrocities are so closely linked to human rights," she said. Her studies have taken her throughout South Asia, where she carried out her graduate field research along the line of control in Kashmir.

"The experience has brought into sharp focus the need to learn more about how environmental protections are eroded or ignored in times of battle," said Krencicki.

Having completed her master’s degree in Environmental Science from Yale University in December, she is now traveling around the country giving Gore’s global warming presentation as a volunteer with the Climate Project. Studying the law, she said, will help her make the case for getting the world community to understand the relationship between the environment and human rights.

Netsanet TesfayNetsanet Tesfay - 2007 Scholar

Born in Ethiopia during a civil war, Tesfay’s earliest memories are of the imprisonment of her father, a schoolteacher, by the Ethiopian government. This experience and her family’s subsequent immigration to the United States fostered her commitment to building a career fighting for human rights.

"Netsanet means ‘freedom’ in my native tongue," she said. "I grew up hearing about the events leading up to and following my birth because my parents wanted me never to forget my humble but powerful history. That’s the legacy that my parents have passed on to "

A graduate of the UW with a degree in political science, Tesfay has worked at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in Seattle for the past year. Her work with immigrants in the domestic violence and citizenship units, as well as her own experiences, remind her every day of the precarious place immigrants and refugees often find themselves.

"There are so many barriers to accessing legal services for low-income immigrants," she said. "I want to attend law school so I can make a difference by securing and defending their opportunities to obtain and maintain legal status."

Last updated 6/13/2013