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Penn Law appoints Wilson Center’s Rangita de Silva de Alwis to lead school’s international programs, outreach

January 15, 2015

The University of Pennsylvania Law School has appointed Rangita de Silva de Alwis, an expert on global human rights, public leadership, and women’s rights, to the position of Associate Dean for International Affairs.

In 2012, de Silva de Alwis was appointed the inaugural director of the Women in Public Service Project (WPSP) and the Global Women’s Leadership Initiative (GWLI) at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. Over the past 25 years she has worked with academic institutions, governments, and nongovernmental organizations throughout the world on human rights law, gender equality, policy making, and institutional reform.

“Penn Law is deeply invested in the global reach of the law, and Dr. de Silva de Alwis is a respected authority on issues of human rights and gender,” said Wendell Pritchett, Interim Dean of the Law School and Presidential Professor. “Her knowledge and expertise will allow Penn Law’s students and faculty to continue — and expand — their critical engagement with the global legal system.”

The Women in Public Service Project, launched by Secretary Clinton at the U.S. Department of State with the five leading women’s colleges, convenes a series of global conversations, along with educating a new generation of women in public service. De Silva de Alwis expanded the global reach of the WPSP and built transnational networks of academic institutions, government and non-governmental organizations.

“I am delighted that Rangita will be leading our international programs,” said William Burke-White, Deputy Dean for International Affairs at Penn Law and Richard Perry Professor and Inaugural Director of the Perry World House. “She will bring to Penn Law a wealth of experience in international human rights and an extraordinary depth of knowledge of different countries and legal cultures. By hiring Rangita we have ensured Penn Law’s continued development into a global leader in international and comparative law.”

“I am very excited to work with the students, faculty, and staff at Penn Law,” said de Silva de Alwis. “Through its close relationships with international law schools and its innovative global initiatives, Penn Law has already made a significant impact in the study of international and comparative law. I look forward to strengthen the Law School’s existing ties with the international community, as well as developing new ones.”

At Wellesley College, de Silva de Alwis convened the Women’s Leadership Network in Muslim Communities, the Asia Cause Lawyer Network in India, and the Gender and Law Expert Group and Women’s Watch in China. For over 14 years, she worked with Chinese experts on law and gender, and she testified twice on the status of women’s rights in China before the Congressional Executive Commission on China.

She has also advised UNICEF, U.N. Women, UNFPA, and UNDP on state accountability under human rights treaties and the intersections of treaties and treaty bodies.

De Silva de Alwis received a Doctorate in Law (S.J.D.) from Harvard Law School, where she was also a Teaching Fellow with the European Research Institute and a Research Fellow with the Women and Public Policy Program at the Kennedy School of Government and a Visiting Fellow at Harvard Law School, Human Rights Program.  

She has spoken at Harvard Law School, Yale Law School, Stanford Law School, Duke Law School, and academic institutions around the world, and her scholarship has appeared in the Yale Journal of Law & Feminism, the University of Pennsylvania East Asia Law Review, the Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy, the UCLA Pacific Basin Law Journal, and the UCLA Journal of International Law and Foreign Affairs, Texas Journal of Women and the Law,and UN and World Bank Publications

Penn Law’s international programs connect students and faculty with and legal and other institutions around the world to develop cutting-edge scholarship on complex issues while preparing students for global practice. Through programs like the Global Research Seminar and the Global Forum on Comparative and International Law, Penn Law students gain the skills and knowledge necessary to address real-world problems in international, foreign, and comparative law.