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
Michael 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 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 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 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
"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 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
"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."