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Toll Public Interest Center at Penn Law Announces 2011 Postgraduate Fellowship Awards

April 13, 2011
2011 TPIC Postgraduate Fellowship recipients Matthew McFeeley L'11, Abel Rodriguez L'11, Joanna Visser L'10 and Benjamin Salvina L'11

As part of its commitment to supporting public interest legal careers, the University of Pennsylvania Law School’s Toll Public Interest Center (TPIC) has selected four 2011 Postgraduate Fellowship Award recipients.

The Fellowships, which were created in 2009 and expanded this year to include the newly created S. Gerald Litvin & Dennis R. Suplee Fellowship, support Penn Law graduating students or recent alumni in their pursuit of public interest careers. Fellows design their own public interest projects and work with partnering non-profit organizations locally, nationally, or internationally on pressing issues and advocating for clients.

Fellows are selected by the TPIC Advisory Board, a group of legal professionals who serve as counsel to TPIC on its public interest programs and initiatives. The Fellowships are awarded through a competitive process, and recipients are screened through written applications and interviews. Successful applicants must demonstrate both a strong commitment to public service and an effective partnership with a public interest organization that will allow them to provide a necessary legal service to an under-represented cause or community. The Fellowships are designed to launch long-term public interest careers.
 
“I am impressed by the caliber of this year’s Postgraduate Fellows, and I admire their enthusiasm for and commitment to social justice and public interest lawyering,” said Michael A. Fitts, dean of Penn Law. “In addition, I am excited to announce our newest Fellowship, the S. Gerald Litvin & Dennis R. Suplee Fellowship, generously funded by Law School alumnus Gerald McHugh [L'79].”

McHugh added, “Jerry Litvin and Dennis Suplee are the ultimate role models for any young lawyer. "This Fellowship will help a Penn Law graduate follow in their paths.” Litvin L’54 is senior counsel at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP and Suplee L’67 is a partner and former chair of Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP.

The 2011 TPIC Postgraduate Fellowship recipients and their projects are:

  • Matthew McFeeley L’11, awarded the Penn Law Public Interest Fellowship. McFeeley will partner with environmental NGO the Natural Resources Defense Council of Washington, D.C. As part of his project he will develop research that details the health and environmental impacts of oil and gas drilling – especially new forms of intensive natural gas extraction –  on low-income, rural communities across the United States. In addition, he will help develop litigation to remedy harms and prevent future violations, and will advocate for new protections.
     
  • Abel Rodriguez L’11, awarded the Langer, Grogan and Diver Fellowship in Social Justice. Partnering with Nueva Esperanza, a Philadelphia faith-based organization, Rodriguez’s project will provide low-income elderly and disabled immigrants in Philadelphia with outreach and legal services to help them navigate the complex naturalization process and begin receiving the life-saving and poverty-reducing benefits to which U.S. citizens are entitled, particularly Supplemental Security Income. Rodriguez will represent clients in federal court appeals, collaborate with non-profits to ensure clients receive benefits, provide comprehensive legal services, and contribute to federal litigation to extend benefits to immigrants.
     
  • Benjamin Salvina L’11, awarded the S. Gerald Litvin & Dennis R. Suplee Fellowship. With partner organization Mazzoni Center Legal Services of Philadelphia, Salvina’s project will focus on helping low-income LGBT persons facing employment discrimination. He will provide community education, strengthen organizational ties, negotiate with entities engaging in discriminatory practices, and represent clients before the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, and state and federal courts.
     
  • Joanna Visser L’10, awarded the Philadelphia Fellowship. Partnering with Philadelphia’s Juvenile Law Center, Visser will engage in outreach, litigation, and policy advocacy to strengthen ongoing efforts to end the practice of sentencing juveniles to die in prison, and will assist prisoners who are challenging the constitutionality of their sentences following the U.S. Supreme Court’s groundbreaking decision in Graham v. Florida. In addition, she will counsel Penn Law students on local pro bono and public interest opportunities, and serve as a bridge between Penn Law and Philadelphia’s robust public interest legal community.
     

Founded in 1989, TPIC is at the center of public interest initiatives at Penn Law, helping all students to cultivate meaningful opportunities to provide pro bono legal service to under-represented communities, while mentoring students who hope to make public interest their professional focus. The Center’s pro bono program, which includes a 70-hour pro bono requirement and emphasizes students’ professional development, has been recognized with the American Bar Association’s Pro Bono Publico Award.

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