PUBLIC INTEREST SCHOLARS PROGRAM
Villanova Law encourages students to pursue careers in public interest law. To facilitate such careers, Villanova Law created the Public Interest Scholars Program ("PISP"). Each year, a select group of students are offered scholarships based on past academic achievement, leadership, public interest work, and commitment to contribute to public interest endeavors at Villanova Law and as future public interest practitioners. Public Interest Scholars are chosen as leaders of a dynamic community of committed public servants at Villanova Law.
Each year, the Public Interest Committee invites a select group of qualified admitted applicants to Villanova Law for a half-day selection event with Villanova faculty, current Public Interest Scholars, and influential alumni and public servants. Upon completion of the event, a small number of participants will be chosen as PISP Scholars. The annual PISP selection event is held in early March.
Beyond the financial freedom offered by PISP, scholars will be assigned a professor/advisor with a public interest background and/or strong ties to the public interest community. Scholars will also receive a public interest mentor outside of Villanova Law in practice areas of interest to the Scholars, as well as specialized public interest career counseling from the Office of Career Strategy. In addition, scholars will receive: priority registration for their choice of Villanova Law’s six legal clinics; assistance from Villanova Law’s Public Interest Committee as they seek a strategic and meaningful 1L externship; access to leadership development coaching and training; and active engagement in the annual Public Interest Selection Event.
PISP Scholars are required to perform a total of 200 hours of approved pro bono legal service during their three years of law school and are also required to participate in one clinical course of their choice, plus a second semester in either the Advanced Advocacy Clinic or a non-judicial externship for credit. PISP Scholars are expected to satisfy the law school's research paper writing requirement by writing on a public interest topic, to plan (with all PISP Scholars) events at the law school to promote awareness of public interest work, and to work in a legal capacity for a public interest organization for both of their summers at Villanova Law. Upon graduation, PISP Scholars are expected, but not required, to engage in at least three years of public interest legal employment within their first five years of post-law school employment.
Current Public Interest Scholars
Nicolas "Nic" Johnson is a 2022 graduate of Spring Hill College (SHC) in Mobile, AL, where he obtained a BS in Political Science & Law, along with a Certificate of Free Enterprise (CFE). Nic is also a published author, having authored an article in 2020 published by AL.com titled "Alabama has many pressing needs; new prisons are not one of them," in response to a plan by leading Alabama state lawmakers to fund and build new prisons. While at Spring Hill College, Nic served as the Senior Class & Senate President for the SHC Student Government Association and Vice President Emeritus of the SHC Men of Color Council, in addition to serving as a Senior Resident Advisor, Student Involvement and Career Development Intern, Refugee Resettlement Program English Instructor, and after-school tutoring program site coordinator for a local public middle school, via the institution's Foley Community Service Center. In addition, Nic was a part of several mission-oriented institutional committees, including SHC's Diversity, Inclusion & Action Team and Mission Priority Examen Steering Committee.
In terms of direct community involvement: during the Summer of 2021, Nic served as an independent contractor for the Gulf Coast Family Center (Mobile, AL), where he handled outreach to 30+ community organizations, assisted with client intake and nonprofit research, and collected data for the completion of grant writing. Nic has also served as a field organizer for the Mike Bloomberg Presidential campaign and has interned and consulted with several political campaigns in AL at the municipal, congressional, and statewide levels, including the 2017 'Doug Jones for U.S. Senate' Campaign. Prior to coming to Villanova Law, and aside from finishing up his bachelor's degree, Nic served as an elementa"ry and middle school substitute teacher for the Montgomery (AL) Public School system, and as an independent contractor for the City Council of Montgomery, Alabama, spearheading community outreach and several community projects for the city's 3rd district.
Victoria Peña-Parr is a Southwest native and a proud New Mexican. She graduated from The University of New Mexico, where she received both her BA in Political Science and Spanish and her MA in Spanish with a concentration in Hispanic Southwest Studies. During her bachelors, Victoria focused her efforts towards college affordability, fighting to make higher education more accessible for anyone who wanted to go. She secured funding for New Mexico Lottery Scholarship, helped establish the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship, and established an emergency scholarship program at UNM. Through her work, she ensured universal higher education for all New Mexicans. During her masters program, Victoria shifted her focus towards providing health equity for Spanish speakers during COVID. Her health equity research is being used at the federal, state, and local level to ensure Spanish speakers are granted equitable health treatment. Lastly, Victoria also taught in the Spanish as a Heritage Language Program at UNM, a program designed to re-connect Latino students with their ancestral language of Spanish. Her dedication to the program and her students earned her the Teaching Assistant of the Year award for the SHL program.
Anthony Ryback received his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Davidson College in 2019, where he was a member of the Political Science Honor Society and participated in a service-learning study abroad experience in Cape Town, South Africa. While in college, he was a Legal Clinic Intern with American University Washington College of Law, Bonner Scholar in the Davidson College Center for Civic Engagement, Vice-Chair of the Davidson Honor Council, and a Senior Admissions and Financial Aid Fellow. After graduation, he worked as the Development Coordinator for Davidson Housing Coalition in North Carolina, a non-profit dedicated to preserving and creating affordable housing options. In this role, he oversaw all development work and strategy regarding event-based fundraising, annual giving, donor relations, grant writing, and volunteer management. He also served on the Board of Governors for the Mecklenburg County Continuum of Care, where he was responsible for representing the needs of non-profits serving those experiencing homelessness in the six towns surrounding Charlotte, NC.
Andrea Solís Canto was a Paralegal Advocate with the Legal Aid Society of Southwest Ohio, where she represented roughly 100 clients per year in cases with the Department of Job and Family Services, drafted humanitarian immigration petitions, interpreted client meetings, and translated documents for advocates. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics, and the Public & International Studies from Xavier University in 2019. As a student, she was a Legal Intern with the Legal Aid Society of Southwest Ohio and a Research Assistant with the Eigel Center for Community Engaged Learning at Xavier. Andrea spent a summer in Washington, DC as a Federal Relations Intern with the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, where she advocated for The Higher Education Act and The Dream and Promise Act to Congress, wrote and published memos to provide policy updates on Higher Education issues, and collected data on US Jesuit Universities for annual fact files. In her role as a Protection Department Intern with the Mexican Consulate, she informed Mexican nationals of their rights at Border Patrol Detention Centers, collected information of detained and missing undocumented migrants for government database, and worked on communication strategies to advertise services offered at Mexican Consulates.
Alannah King is a graduate of Penn State, where she earned a Master of Public Policy in 2021 and her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Bachelor of Science in Criminology with a focus in Legal Studies in 2020. She worked as a policy associate for the California Innocence Project, where she conducted research on police department procedure to determine compliance with California law. Additionally, she served as an outreach and public policy graduate intern for the Viral Imaginations: COVID-19 Project at Penn State, where she curated visual and written artwork to gain insight into how people were coping with the coronavirus. As an undergraduate, she interned with the California Innocence Project and the Family Law Facilitator Office in California, where she worked with staff attorneys to aid over two hundred self-representing litigants. She also served as a team captain for her alma mater’s mock trial team and led trainings and campaigns to raise awareness for sexual assault intervention practices through Stand for State.
Humna Rub graduated summa cum laude from Arcadia University, where she pursued a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies. During her second year of college, she studied abroad in the United Kingdom and worked as an intern for a Member of Parliament. Humna was able to engage with constituency work and work on a Labour Party campaign, which inspired her thesis paper on “Chicken Tikka Multiculturalism.” Currently, she sits on the board for civil rights organization CAIR Philadelphia, which develops programming to combat Islamophobia and encourage youth voting and political activism. Humna also has been involved with Rise Up Doylestown, where she has organized and participated in rallies in support of DACA, immigrants’ rights, and against the Muslim ban.
Prior to law school, Natalie Anderson worked as a project assistant in the Sexual Misconduct Consulting and Investigations Division for T&M Protection Resources in New York City, where she supported former assistant district attorneys in conducting third party investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct at private schools and private businesses. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy with a concentration in Women’s Studies from Boston College in 2016. As an undergraduate student, she served as a leader and mentor for Ascend, a program where upper class mentors lead group conversations and activities concentrated on giving freshmen women a place to grow and build confidence. Following graduation, Natalie worked at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office as a trial preparation paralegal for just under two years.
Kimberly Baxter graduated from The University of Scranton, where she obtained a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and Criminal Justice. She also graduated in the honors research program, where she wrote and defended her thesis on obligations of universities and criminal/civil courts regarding Title IX. During her time at Scranton she served as a senator and secretary for Student Government, tour guide for the Office of Admissions, and a head resident assistant for the Office of Residence Life. Additionally, Kim participated in numerous service opportunities, including an immersion-based trip to the Kino Border in Nogales, Mexico and to Los Angeles, where she volunteered with Homeboy Industries, a gang intervention, rehabilitation and reentry program that seeks to break the cycle of intergenerational violence. In the of Summer 2019, she interned with Judge Michael Barrasse at the Lackawanna County Courthouse's drug treatment and mental health courts.
At Villanova Law, Kim has joined several organizations on campus. She serves as the 1L Liaison for the Black Law Students Association, a volunteer for the Federal Tax Clinic, and she is a member of the National Trial Team, Criminal Law Society, and Pro Bono Society. Furthermore, she served as a research assistant for Professor Chanenson and an intern for the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office (Pottstown Unit) during Summer 2021. In addition, she participated in the Montgomery Bar Association's 1L Summer Diversity Program and was awarded their public interest scholarship. During the 2021-22 academic year, she will be volunteering with Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania in their Community Engagement Unit and serving as a Resident Assistant for first-year undergraduate students.
Noelle Gambale graduated from Villanova University in 2019, earning her Bachelor of Arts in Criminology and Sociology, with a concentration in Peace and Justice. During her time as an undergraduate student, Noelle spent two years tutoring in a literacy program at SCI Graterford and completed a year-long internship with the Pennsylvania Prison Society. After graduation, she worked as a program associate at the Pennsylvania Prison Society where she oversaw the Family Transportation program, the correspondence program with incarcerated individuals, and the publication of their newsletter Graterfriends, which is written primarily by incarcerated authors. Noelle still currently volunteers as editorial organizer for Graterfriends, editing submissions from incarcerated people and managing the volunteer team.
Michael Harding is from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is a graduate of Fairfield University, where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and Politics and delivered the valedictorian address at graduation in 2018. His service and scholarship have taken him abroad to nearly 20 countries, including places such as Spain, Ghana, and Tanzania. He is fluent in Spanish and served in the Philadelphia City Year AmeriCorps, providing academic support to Spanish-speaking students at Thurgood Marshall School in Olney. He has local political experience, having served in the respective offices of Pennsylvania State Representative Stephen Kinsey and State Senator Art Haywood. As a site coordinator for EducationWorks, Michael led a service learning program for high school students who conducted a social action project on criminal justice reform consisting of independent research, investigative journalism, and community engagement. In 2020, Michael will embark on a life-changing opportunity as a Fulbright Scholar, spending the year at Universidad Diego Portales and El Museo de La Memoria y Los Derechos Humanos in Santiago, Chile researching the challenges of achieving transitional justice and social healing after overcoming political injustice.
Prior to Villanova Law, Katie Stiffler was the deputy Title IX coordinator for the Office of Title IX Programs and Compliance at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, where she developed and delivered Title IX training to faculty and staff as well as created comprehensive prevention and education programming for undergraduate students. She is an alumna of The College of William and Mary, earning her Bachelor of Arts in Gender Studies and Global Health in 2013. Following her graduation, she attended The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to earn her Master of Science in Reproductive and Sexual Health Research, focusing her research on the influence of participation in Greek life and athletics on sexual assault perpetration across college campuses in the United States. In her former role, Katie volunteered as a Safe Zone training facilitator and previously instructed a semester-long course designed to introduce students to the concept of emotional intelligence.
Cooper is a graduate of the University of Rochester where he majored in Political Science and minored in Arabic. During his time there, he served as the publicity chair for the Refugee Student Alliance and volunteered as a tutor with the group’s refugee tutoring program. Cooper served as an Americorps VISTA member, where he was placed with a Rochester-based farmer’s market and was tasked with marketing to increase attendance and the use of SNAP benefits. He also worked as a volunteer intern at the Legal Aid Society of Rochester in the Immigration Unit and assisted attorneys with research for asylum petitions and permanent residency status applications. Before returning to his undergraduate studies, Cooper worked as a Surgical Technician for 14 years; most of which was spent working as a contractor in numerous hospitals throughout the Midwestern and Northeastern United States.