Villanova Law is excited to relaunch the Public Interest Scholars Program (PISP) to encourage more students to pursue careers in public interest law.

As a result, we streamlined the selection process to align with our current online application for admission which will allow more scholars to be identified for the program. Under the revised program, interested applicants may proactively apply for consideration by completing the PISP essay questions which must be submitted with your Villanova Law School application.

Candidates will be selected based on past academic achievement, leadership, public interest work, commitment to contribute to public interest endeavors at Villanova Law and as future public interest practitioners.

All Public Interest Scholars will be awarded scholarships, with the possibility for qualified applicants to receive full tuition offers. 

Interested applicants should periodically refer to this page for updated information as the new program details are finalized. 

Current Public Interest Scholars

Maria Elisa is a 2022 graduate of Pace University where she earned a degree in Women's and Gender Studies and was awarded the 2022 Trustee Award for her positive contributions to University life. During her undergraduate career, she focused her efforts on gender-based violence interning at Sanctuary for Families and on Human Rights First’s Refugee Representation team. Summer of her sophomore year, Maria Elisa interned with World Without Exploitation (WorldWE) and co-founded the WorldWE Youth Coalition, a national youth-led network dedicated to ending human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Aside from being the Youth Coalition Co-Chair, as WorldWE’s Policy, Communications & Engagement Manager, she testified before government bodies in favor of survivor-centered policy such as the Equality Model. Maria Elisa also worked as the Hispanic Outreach Program Marketing Associate for Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, NJ, where she raised over $100,000 to cover mammogram expenses for underserved members of the Hispanic community and provided bilingual assistance to health fair attendees. 

Before law school, Arielle Jackson worked as a Research Analyst at the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center, a nonprofit research and policy organization that aims to provide data and evidence to help advance upward mobility and equity. While at Urban, she conducted mixed-methods research on the juvenile and criminal legal system, reentry and diversion, and alternatives to incarceration. Her work has helped improve transitional housing support for people on probation, address efforts to reduce youth incarceration, increase support for young people in their communities, and identify best practices to develop workforce development programs for young adults with prior criminal legal system involvement. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Criminology and Criminal Justice from the University of Maryland in 2021. During her time at Maryland, she served as co-programming chair for IGNITE, was a Rawlings Undergraduate Leadership Fellow, and was a member of the cheerleading team. Additionally, she interned at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, where she worked with program staff and attorneys on policy projects and initiatives (both at the national and local levels) concerning a fair judiciary, voting rights, and hate crimes. As an undergrad, Arielle also interned at the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland and the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office. 

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 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.