Public Interest Scholars

Each year, Public Interest Scholars are selected from a competitive applicant pool based on prior academic achievement, leadership, public interest and commitment to public service. Biographies of recent recipients are listed below.

Sarah Blum received her B.A. in Law and Society from Oberlin College in 2018. Prior to college, Ms. Blum taught English to children in a slum in Nicaragua, inspiring her desire to advocate for victims of human trafficking. While attending Oberlin, Ms. Blum started Project Unbound, a student organization dedicated to educating the community about human trafficking and fundraising for the local human trafficking collaborative. In addition to serving as chair for Project Unbound throughout her undergraduate career, Ms. Blum interned with Covenant House Philadelphia and the Sungate Foundation, both organizations dedicated to fighting human trafficking.

Katie Carden graduated from the University of Maryland in 2016 with a B.A. in History and a minor in Spanish. While attending UMD, Ms. Carden was admitted to the Honors College.  During her undergraduate career, she served as chairwoman of her sorority’s philanthropic activities, a leader in the University’s Terps 4 Service environmental program, and she traveled on service spring break programs to Chile and West Virginia. Additionally, Ms. Carden interned at a Washington, D.C. based immigration law firm and for DC Volunteer Lawyers Project (DCVLP), a nonprofit that provides pro bono legal services to low income families suffering from the trauma of domestic violence.  After graduating, Ms. Carden joined DCLVP as a staff member in the fundraising division and assisted the legal team. She took on the organization’s community outreach, expanding contacts with new partner organizations and tabling at community events. Ms. Carden remains active in her church’s philanthropy, including its homeless outreach and its meal program for wounded warriors.

Jenn Pacicco is a graduate of The George Washington University, where she earned a B.A. in Human Services and Social Justice with a minor in Sustainability. During college, she interned at the Legal Services Corporation, the largest funder of civil legal aid programs in the United States. Ms. Pacicco spent her senior year interning at the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, assisting the Association’s many different policy initiatives, including public service loan forgiveness and bail reform.

Rick Schneider received his bachelor’s degree in International Studies and History in December 2014 from Texas State University. He continued his education at Texas State University in the International Studies Master’s Program, focusing primarily on U.S. foreign policy and refugee studies. Mr. Schneider traveled to Cambodia in the summer of 2016 to teach English at the Royal University of Phnom Penh. Upon graduation from Texas State, Mr. Schneider worked as a Landlord Outreach Specialist for Caritas of Austin, a refugee resettlement program in Central Texas. Mr. Schneider identified housing opportunities for refugees and built relationships in the community to foster support and understanding for Caritas refugee clients in the Greater Austin Area. Mr. Schneider is currently interning with the U.S. State Department e-intern program, working on human rights and trafficking in persons issues with the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. At Villanova Law, Mr. Schneider is the Section B 1L Rep for the International Law Society, and a current member of the Pro Bono and PIFP societies.

Emma received her B.A. in International and Area Studies with minors in African Studies, Latin American Studies, and Spanish from the University of Oklahoma in 2017. While there she was an International Studies Leadership Fellow and worked in the office of International Student Services. She interned at the Maisha Project where she worked on their child sponsorship program for students in the Nyanza Province of Kenya. She also had the opportunity to do research with an African Studies professor in the University’s Honors College about the emerging concept of voluntourism. During the fall semester of her senior year she studied US-Mexican relations at La UPAEP in Puebla, Mexico. She also completed training with the Dragonfly Home in Oklahoma City, initiating her desire to advocate for victims of human trafficking, domestic violence, and sexual assault. At Villanova Law, she is a member of PIFP, Criminal Law Society, and the Coalition Advocating for Rights and Dignity (CARD).

Sarah received a B.A. in Spanish Business with a minor in Human Services from Messiah College in 2012. While at Messiah College, she served as the Latino and Migrant Partnership Coordinator and interned with the National Adoption Center, where she helped to coordinate events to match prospective parents with youth eligible for adoption. She also interned at Forgotten Voices International, where she advocated for community support for children who had been orphaned in Zambia and Zimbabwe. Upon graduation, Sarah moved to Viña del Mar, Chile, where she co-led a program connecting corporate volunteers with a local orphanage and taught as a professor at a local university. She continues to advocate for adoption reform in Chile and currently volunteers with the Law School's clinics as a Spanish Interpreter.

Paige graduated from Boston University, where she was a Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholar, in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in Print Journalism and a minor in African Studies. During her senior year and following graduation, Paige worked at Strategies for Youth, a nonprofit dedicated to improving police/youth interactions. She then spent time as a full-time journalist. Later, she worked as a case manager at a homeless shelter for teen mothers and their children. Paige went on to work at My Life My Choice, a program of the Justice Resource Institute that aims to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children through survivor-led programming.

Ava Giacobbo received her bachelor’s degree in December 2014 from The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) after studying English and Special Education. She continued her studies in Special Education at TCNJ focusing on students with behavioral difficulties and received her Master of Arts in Teaching with dual certification in May 2016. While in her undergraduate and graduate programs, she had the opportunity to teach both general and special education students in various districts throughout New Jersey, including public and private schools in urban and suburban areas. In addition to teaching, Ava interned with the New Jersey State Department of Education in the Office of Special Education Programs while at TCNJ. At Villanova Law, Ava is a board member of the Education Law Society, an active member in PIFP and Pro Bono societies, and an ambassador to prospective students.

Alexa graduated from Cal Poly in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. While attending Cal Poly, Alexa interned with the Democratic Party of Orange County and a justice on the San Luis Obispo Superior Court. Alexa was appointed to represent San Luis Obispo County as a delegate to the Democratic State Central Committee for the 2015 state convention. Under the supervision of a professor widely published in homelessness and poverty policy, she researched local homeless populations and their interactions with the criminal justice system by gathering case studies. Here at Villanova Law, she is an active member of Street Law and Face-to-Face, and she has worked with the Pennsylvania Innocence Project and New York Legal Assistance Group.  

Pam graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2011 with a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in Biology. Following graduation, she served in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Phoenix, Arizona, where she worked with homeless adults seeking permanent employment. After returning to Philadelphia, she continued to volunteer with homeless and low-income individuals in a wide variety of pro-bono settings, including serving as coordinating paralegal for her law firm's landlord-tenant representation team, where she helped represent indigent tenants in eviction proceedings before the Philadelphia Municipal Court. While in law school, Pam has continued to volunteer with a variety of public interest law organizations, including the expungement clinic at the Montgomery County Public Defender's Office and Germantown Face-to-Face Legal Center.

Norman graduated from "The" Ohio State University with a bachelor's of science in social work (BSSW) in 2012 and then with a master's degree in social work (MSW) in 2014. While at Ohio State, he was in the Honors Program and completed university-sponsored research pertaining to the efficacy of ex-offender re-entry programs. He interned at the Alvis House Re-entry Center where he provided resource connection and job readiness training for ex-offenders. In addition, he interned at Ohio Mental Health & Addiction Services (OhioMHAS), where he evaluated community mental health treatment programs' usage of mini-grant funds and also assessed prison mental health and substance abuse treatment programs. During this time he volunteered at the Office of the Ohio Public Defender as well, and was eventually hired to work within the Public Defender's Wrongful Conviction Project from 2012-2014.

Lizzie earned both her bachelor's in criminology and master's in social work at the University of Pennsylvania in 2010 and 2014, respectively. While at Penn, she interned with Penn Law's Interdisciplinary Child Advocacy Clinic, where she worked primarily with teenagers seeking to reenter the foster care system after the age of 18. She also interned at the Philadelphia Children's Alliance, providing crisis counseling and support to caregivers and victims of child sexual abuse. During her MSW program, Lizzie co-founded the Disability Special Interest Group, which focuses on supporting and educating social workers about working with people with disabilities, as well as on reaching out to the community for service and advocacy opportunities involving people with disabilities.

Jennifer graduated from Liberty University in 2011 with a B.S. in Clinical Psychology and a minor in Sociology. While at Liberty, she was in the Honors Program, completed university-sponsored research, competed in Track and Field, and served in multiple ministerial roles. After graduation, Jennifer worked with at-risk youth in a variety of settings, such as residential treatment facilities, alternative schools, and day treatment centers. During this time, she also started a small sewing business, donating a portion of the profits to an abolitionist organization. Prior to law school, Jennifer was an investigator for Child Protective Services in Virginia Beach for 18 months.

Steve earned both his B.A. in Applied Public Policy and Masters in Public Health from West Chester University. While attending West Chester, he interned with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, working on the "Get Healthy Philly" Initiative as well as a housing needs assessment for Philadelphia residents with HIV/AIDS. Steve also worked with the Health Promotion Council to write the curriculum for a Teen Advocacy Workshop that focused on healthy food options for low-income communities. After completing his M.P.H., Steve worked as a Case Manager for Action AIDS Inc., assembling care plans and providing services for individuals experiencing HIV symptoms.

John is a graduate of George Washington University, where he earned a B.A. in History with a minor in Political Science. During college, he interned at the ONE Campaign, an advocacy organization dedicated to eradicating extreme poverty and preventable disease in developing countries. John also interned with the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, a political organization providing financial and strategic support to candidates at the state legislative level. Upon graduating in 2011, John served as a Labor Policy Associate for the Minority Staff of the Committee on Education and the Workforce in the U.S. House of Representatives

Azadeh graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 2006 and majored in Spanish and Philosophy. After obtaining a Masters in Philosophy from DePaul University, she completed a year of AmeriCorps service at the Association House of Chicago, coordinating adult education and citizenship workshops. Azadeh subsequently provided direct legal services and outreach to low-income immigrants at the National Immigrant Justice Center. Prior to attending Villanova Law, Azadeh became an accredited representative for the Board of Immigration Appeals and represented clients before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as well as the Department of Homeland Security.

Brennan graduated from Gonzaga University in 2009, earning a degree in Philosophy and Economics. He then worked in the torts division of the Washington State Attorney General's Office, and later, as a constituent advocacy caseworker for the U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA). He also volunteered as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for the Spokane County Juvenile Court, advocating for child abuse and neglect victims in dependency proceedings. At Villanova Law, Brennan has been actively engaged in the Walter Lucas Public Interest Fellowship Program (PIFP) and the National Lawyers Guild (NLG). He has also dedicated his time to working to develop a youth court program for low-income Norristown-area high schools, in partnership with Gregg Volz of the Stoneleigh Foundation and the U.S. Attorney's Office. Brennan interned during his 1L summer for the Federal Defenders of Eastern Washington and Idaho, and will spend his 2L summer in the chambers of Judge John Coughenour, U.S. District Court Judge for the Western District of Washington. Brennan plans to pursue a career in indigent defense, child advocacy, and policy reform.

Susan is a graduate of Hamilton College, where she studied Theatre and Government. She participated in Teach For America as part of the Greater Boston Corps, teaching 6th Grade English and Social Studies and 8th Grade Special Education to low-income, primarily immigrant students. While in Teach For America, Susan participated in graduate coursework at Boston University to obtain her teaching license. Susan has been extremely active in the Villanova Law Public Interest Community. She worked extensively with Villanova Law's Farmworker Legal Aid Clinic. She has held leadership positions in PIFP, the NLG, and the Women's Law Caucus. Susan served as the Co-Chair of the Research and Writing Committee for Villanova Law's Ryan Forum Conference on Commercialized Sexual Exploitation. During her 1L summer, she interned at the Education Law Center (ELC) in Philadelphia and continued as an extern throughout the following fall. Susan also interned at the National Partnership of Women and Families doing health policy work.

Vanessa graduated from Lewis & Clark College. Following graduation, she worked as a community organizer for a non-profit dedicated to organizing parents and teachers to improve Oregon's public school system. She also worked as an immigation legal assistant. During her time at Villanova Law, Vanessa has been actively involved in PIFP and the NLG. She served as the Co-Director for NLG, launching a project to combat immgration fraud in the Philadelphia area. She also co-organized Villanova Law's Farmworker Legal Aid Clinic spring break service project trip to Pittsburgh. Vanessa spent both her summers at Friends of Farmworkers, where she combated wage theft, assisted victims of labor trafficking, and organized outreach to guest workers. She also worked for the Voces de Trabajadoras/ Voices of Women at Work project, developing educational materials in Spanish and conducting outreach to women workers to discuss issues they face in the workplace. Vanessa plans to continue providing direct representation to low-income immigrants after graduation.

Whitney earned a degree in Political Science and International Peace Studies from the University of Notre Dame. At Notre Dame, she focused on international human rights issues which included living in Chennai, India, for three months, teaching and working on advocacy for disabled persons in the region. Upon graduating in 2009, Whitney moved to Uganda, where she taught school and worked on social outreach with women's groups. While at Villanova Law, she has volunteered with various organizations and has served on the boards of PIFP and NLG. Whitney has also worked with the ACLU, Nationalities Service Center, Community Legal Services, the Defender Association of Philadelphia, and Villanova Law's Farmworker Legal Aid Clinic.

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