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Fellowships propel Penn Law grads and alums into public interest careers

July 24, 2017

Five Penn Law graduates and alumni — George Donnelly L’15, Rodney Holcombe L’17, Carl Snodgrass L’17, Margaret Zhang L’15, and Mary Jones L’17 — have been awarded postgraduate fellowships from Penn Law to pursue public interest careers. In addition, Elizabeth Tang L’17 and Isabel Abreu L’16 were awarded Equal Justice Works Fellowships to launch their public interest careers.

“Given the limited funding in the public sector, postgraduate fellowships are highly competitive, essential entry points into public service.” said Arlene Rivera Finkelstein, Associate Dean for Public Interest Programs and Executive Director of the Toll Public Interest Center. “We are so proud of our students for developing impactful projects that funders were eager to support.”

Penn Law’s postgraduate fellowship program has launched the public interest careers of more than 30 graduates since the program’s inception in 2009. All of these graduates were able to serve communities in need, and most continue to serve those communities as a direct result of this funding.

George Donnelly received the Langer, Grogan & Diver Fellowship in Social Justice, generously supported by Penn Law alumni at Langer, Grogan & Diver P.C. He will be working at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia to improve housing conditions for Philadelphia tenants. By defending tenants in court, appealing unjust decisions, and suing slumlords, George will provide tenants with the legal tools to combat the power imbalance between landlords and tenants in eviction cases. 

Rodney Holcombe received the Penn Law Toll Public Interest Fellowship. He will be hosted by the Drug Policy Alliance in Oakland, California, where he will launch the Proposition 64 Expungement Project. Rodney will help low-income, non-incarcerated individuals who would otherwise not have access to legal services clear their criminal records when possible. This will enable eligible clients to get a fresh start with a clean record. 

Mary Jones received a Catalyst Fellowship. She will be working in the Legal Clinic for the Disabled’s Medical Legal Partnership, which delivers legal help and advice to clients and trains healthcare professionals to identify legal issues that impact positive healthcare outcomes.

Carl Snodgrass received the S. Gerald Litvin & Dennis R. Suplee Fellowship, a fellowship started by the Honorable Gerald A. McHugh in honor of his mentors. As part of the ACLU Racial Justice Program, Snodgrass will work to combat municipal and state policies of jailing indigent defendants for being too poor to pay court-imposed fines and fees. He will also work with local ACLU affiliates and public defender offices, as well as with communities, to assess the impact and severity of the policies, and to develop strategies for reform and litigation.

Margaret Zhang received the University of Pennsylvania Law Review Public Interest Fellowship. Zhang will work at The Women’s Law Project, where she will represent pregnant and nursing women who face discrimination in the workplace and at school. Margaret will defend the rights of her clients before administrative agencies and in court, and she will advocate for statewide legislation. She will also help incarcerated women obtain appropriate reproductive health care by providing representation, furnishing educational materials, and advocating for better prison policies.

In addition to the five Penn Law graduates and alumni who received postgraduate fellowships from the Law School, Elizabeth Tang and Isabel Abreu received Equal Justice Works Fellowships, which are nationally competitive fellowships that fund new and innovative legal projects that serve communities in need of legal assistance.

Elizabeth Tang’s fellowship will fund her work at The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), where she will work to reduce all forms of sexual harassment and violence that create a hostile environment in K-12 schools, including by piloting a replicable model of education, advocacy, and representation in D.C.-area schools. Her fellowship is sponsored by Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.

Isabel Abreu’s fellowship will allow her to continue her work with HIAS Pennsylvania, where she provides legal advocacy to low-income immigrant survivors of domestic violence in Bucks County and other underserved counties outside of Philadelphia. Her fellowship is sponsored by Merck & Co., Inc. and Covington & Burling LLP. Abreu began her work with HIAS Pennsylvania last year with the support of a Penn Law postgraduate fellowship.