PIFP Fellows 2017

Honoring Villanova’s Augustinian heritage and our community’s dedication to serving others, many Villanova Law students serve as committed public advocates through one of the School’s six in-house clinics, numerous externship placements, pro bono programs or an earned fellowship position. A testament to that commitment are the students who spend their summers doing public interest legal work.

Every year, the student-run Walter Lucas Public Interest Fellowship Program (PIFP) provides fellowship funding to Villanova Law students who are committed to serving the greater community and delivering legal aid to those in need. Eight students will work for non-profit and public interest organizations in summer 2017 thanks to PIFP’s fundraising efforts.

PIFP fellowships allow students to engage in the public service work that drew them to law school. Through these fellowships, students advance the work of their host organizations and enhance their own professional skills.

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Stephanie Mersch '19, New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety

What most excites you about your fellowship?

I'm excited to experience first-hand how the state government works, and to be able to serve the general public to the best of my abilities.  I look forward to giving back to the community while putting to use each day the things I've learned in the classroom.

Why is this fellowship important to you?

This fellowship is giving me an opportunity to work in a position I never would have been able to otherwise due to financial constraints. 

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Lydia Ellsworth '19, Philadelphia Legal Assistance, Consumer Housing Unit

Why are you interested in public interest work?

I believe justice cannot be achieved without a concerted effort to serve those who do not have the privileges or resources necessary to navigate the law.

Why is this fellowship important to you?

The PIFP fellowship allows me to fulfill the duty of service to which I feel called. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity this fellowship is giving me to participate in something bigger than myself—work that may not be glamorous to many, but is righteous. 

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Waqar Rehman '19, Community Legal Services, Philadelphia, PA

Why are you interested in public interest?

Recently, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor spoke at an event for a legal aid organization and remarked on how critical legal aid is for those who need it. This is why I feel an obligation to use the legal knowledge I am acquiring at Villanova Law—to ensure that those who do not have ready access to legal representation can rely on public interest law firms to find a lawyer who might be able to help level the field in court.

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Zac Barnett '19, Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General, Bureau of Consumer Protection

Why are you interested in public interest work?

I am pursuing a career in law because it is the best way to lend my privilege to amplify the voices of the unheard and positively effect change in our political and socioeconomic systems. There is no area of law more directly beneficial to at-risk communities than public interest law.

What most excites you about your fellowship?

I look forward to helping Pennsylvanians who may have been taken advantage of by unfair, deceptive and predatory business practices.

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Molly Krebs '19, National Clearninghouse for the Defense of Battered Women

What are you most excited about with your fellowship?

I am excited to begin putting what I learned during my first year of law school to work in the real world.  My summer position will include research on policy affecting incarcerated, battered women.  I am excited to combine my research skills with the complex language of the law and the focus on ending violence against women.  

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Nicole Sardella '19, Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, Philadelphia, PA

Why are you interested in public interest?

I want to make a positive impact in my community. I find that public service is a rewarding field and want to continue this work throughout my career.

What most excites you about your fellowship?

I am most excited to work closely with the team and with the community together to further anti-discrimination legislation in Philadelphia.

Why is this fellowship important to you?

Working for PCHR encapsulates all of the reasons why I left my job. I came to law school to learn and understand the laws and use them to help the people in my community.

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Sarah Baranik de Alacron '19, Krasno, Krasno & Onwudinjo Fellow, HIAS Pennsylvania

Why are you interested in public interest?

My interest in public interest stems from my belief that every individual is valuable and has the right to be heard, to be protected, and to flourish. Often, individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are denied access to affordable legal services, which further entrenches them in a cycle of poverty through no fault of their own. Public interest law can help establish the rights of individuals and place them on more solid legal footing as they make their way forward in the world.

What are you most excited about with your fellowship?

I am excited about working in this position because I will learn about working with immigrants and children, which are two populations I would like to work with in the future. This is a crucial time to work in service to immigrants and refugees because there is so much uncertainty around the relevant laws and legislation which impact these populations. I know I will learn a great deal from both the clients at HIAS and the lawyers who advocate for them. Learning at HIAS this summer particularly relates to my long-term goals of building bridges for individuals to serve and learn from immigrant communities and vulnerable youth in meaningful ways.

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Kaitlyn Macaulay '18, Montgomery County District Attorney's Office

Why are you interested in public interest?

Every person should have access to legal resources.  Without public interest lawyers, so many potential cases would go without representation.  

What are you most excited about with your fellowship?

As for my summer internship, I am most excited for the opportunity to get my feet wet and hopefully try some preliminary hearings.  Having this PIFP fellowship allows me to gain new experiences and skills during the summer without having to compromise my aspirations.