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Tara Grigg Garlinghouse L’14

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For Tara, working in the public interest field “was pretty much the only option [she] ever considered.” Her laser-focus on child welfare as an undergraduate at Rice University guided her senior thesis, which in turn inspired her to pursue a J.D.  After analyzing her thesis research, she concluded that the best way to affect change in the field was by “advocat[ing] for children through policy and the law.” Now Tara knows exactly what she wants to do after law school. She will begin her legal career representing children in dependency hearings and later take on broader policy reform to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of children.

Prior to coming to Penn, Tara was a member of the first class of City Hall Fellows for the City of Houston Municipal Courts. There, she implemented a complex organizational system so effective that she was hired to return for the year after her fellowship to ensure its independence and longevity once she was ready to move on.

Tara is as integral to the Penn Public Interest community as she was to the city of Houston. In her first two years, she advocated for the Custody and Support Assistance Clinic, served on the Public Interest Student Advisory Board, and worked  as an Auction Chair for the Equal Justice Foundation. She was also awarded the first ever Alan Lerner Fellowship in Child Policy and Welfare Policy. As the Alan Lerner Fellow, Tara worked as an intern with the Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice, and Research. She also recently published three articles on effective ways to support teen mothers and how courts should address the well-being of children. Tara is now in the final year of wrapping up her joint MPP with the Harvard Kennedy School of Government where she is learning how to leverage data in the pursuit of improving the child welfare system.

In addition to her advocacy for child welfare, Tara manages to find time to indulge her passion project: CrossFit, a strength and conditioning program, to which she admits being “a junkie.”