An experienced human rights lawyer trained in Norway, Juni Nyheim Solbraekke LLM’22 is one of 12 students from across the University of Pennsylvania — and two students from the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School — to participate in the Wharton School’s Lipman Family Prize Program as a Lipman Fellow.
The Lipman Family Prize Program, generously resourced by Barry W’70 and Marie Lipman, seeks to impact positive change by supporting organizations’ social impact missions. Each year, the Program selects a diverse group of Lipman Fellows to participate in administering the Lipman Family Prize. Over the course of the year-long fellowship, Fellows develop a keen understanding of philanthropy work, engage in hands-on leadership education, and collaborate in cross-disciplinary teams to read and analyze applications from organizations hoping to resource a wide range of cutting-edge social impact projects.
For Solbraekke, who is studying at the Law School with the support of an Aker Scholarship, one appealing aspect of the Lipman Fellowship is the opportunity to learn about philanthropy through a distinctly interdisciplinary lens. Lipman Fellows work within cohorts dedicated to a specific area of social impact work. Solbraekke is in the “Youth and Justice” cohort alongside a PhD candidate studying journalism at the Annenberg School, an MBA student at the Wharton School, and an MFA student at the Weitzman School of Design.
Prior to enrolling in the LLM Program, Solbraekke worked as a legal advisor at the Permanent Mission of Norway to the United Nations in New York. While reading applications, Solbraekke relies on her background as a human rights lawyer to analyze the impact of different organizations’ proposed projects. Solbraekke explained that this involves researching the concrete changes an organization has helped to create in the past and thinking critically about how those changes affected peoples’ lived experiences in the region. Solbraekke then shares this information with the other members of her cohort as they discuss the organization’s application collectively, as a team.
“When I first learned about the Lipman Fellowship, I thought, ‘This is right up my alley.’ I was excited both to get to know students from other graduate schools who are also interested in philanthropy and to learn more about how social impact can be measured through different standards,” Solbraekke said. “What has been particularly interesting has been learning how a group of people from diverse backgrounds can read one application, get the same set of information, and come away with very different perspectives on it.”
Beyond the substantive application review, a key element of the Lipman Fellowship is its commitment to growing strong leaders in the philanthropy field.
Last fall, Solbraekke studied leadership — women’s leadership in particular — in Associate Dean of International Affairs and Senior Adjunct Professor of Global Leadership Rangita de Silva de Alwis’s “Women, Law, and Leadership” course. For Solbraekke, the course provided valuable insight and pragmatic guidance that helped prepare her for a leadership role as a Lipman Fellow; for example, after learning that women leaders often perform a disproportionate amount of administrative tasks in comparison to men in similar positions, Solbraekke decided to implement a rotating system for administrative tasks, such as notetaking and sending out meeting invitations, within her cohort. The idea for this solution came directly from one of the many “Women, Law, and Leadership” guest speakers.
“Professor de Silva de Alwis’s ‘Women, Law, and Leadership’ course really sparked some synergies with the leadership component of the Lipman Fellowship. The course makes you aware of, and helps you think critically about, women leaders’ roles and the challenges women face in taking on those roles,” Solbraekke said. “The rotation system was one of the first things I proposed to my team in the Lipman Fellowship. It’s a small example, but I definitely felt that the class discussions and the Fellowship responsibilities were playing into each other, and together, the experiences have made me more aware of challenges and opportunities in my leadership development.”
Solbraekke intends to continue to grow her leadership skills after graduation.
“Regardless of what kind of work you do, it’s valuable to have consciously reflected about who you are as a leader and to know your weaknesses and strengths if you aim to get a higher position,” Solbraekke said. “This leadership experience will help me in whatever career path I take.”
Solbraekke is one of two Law School students currently serving as a Lipman Fellow; her colleague Ayo Aladesanmi ML’23, MPA’23 has also been selected for the Fellowship.