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Four recipients awarded International Public Interest Law Fellowships
June 04, 2012
Four recipients of International Public Interest Law Fellowships — Michael Osman, Eric Shovein, Dessislava Terzieva and Kristin York — will work this summer in Lebanon and India on cutting-edge legal and human-rights issues.
The fellowships, first launched by Wayne State University Law School in 2009, allow students to work for participating non-governmental organizations around the world during the summer after their first or second years at Wayne Law. The partner groups engage in advocacy in human rights, the environment, law reform and other areas. Fellows receive a $5,000 stipend to cover travel and living expenses for up to two months of work. Professor Gregory Fox is director of the fellowship program.
Osman will travel to Beirut, Lebanon, to work for the Arab Center for the Development of the Rule of Law and Integrity.
“I am originally from Beirut, Lebanon, and my roots have led to my interest in the affairs of the Middle East,” he said. “It has always been a dream of mine to work with legal entities to improve the legal and political systems within the Middle East, specifically Lebanon. I believe that working with these legal institutions, lawyers and politicians directly to enhance the rule of law in the Middle East would be a special experience that would give me the opportunity to learn and aid in the region’s development.”
After graduation, Osman, a Dearborn Heights resident, hopes to work with a firm that does international commercial work.
“Although I am very much interested in working in the international public interest field, I do have a passion for business and commerce,” he said. “Therefore, the plan is to combine international law and business. With corporations and businesses expanding globally, these entities are looking for individuals who can help them get to where they want to be.”
Osman, who speaks Arabic and English, did his undergraduate work at Wayne.
Shovein’s fellowship will take him to West Bengal, India, to work with the international human rights and torture law organization known as MASUM.
“They have five or six workers in their main office, and the rest in districts throughout the country,” he said. “I will be at the West Bengal office working on the numerous human rights issues that affect the region. I imagine I will be working on research, education publication, and with people affected by human rights abuses.”
The internship will help prepare him for his ongoing studies on international and immigration law, he said.
“The best way to learn another culture and the topic you are studying is to immerse yourself in that area of law,” Shovein said.
He spent a year with an AmeriCorps program in Lansing working to develop community gardens through a land bank program, taught English to elementary students on Guadeloupe, did a stint as a Peace Corps trainee in Cambodia, worked with another AmeriCorps program in Detroit to help young children prepare for school academically and socially, and also helps two friends with a Detroit urban farming project,
He plans to work in some area of international human rights law after graduation.
“I’d ideally like to stay in Detroit, considering there is an immigration court here and there is a large refugee community,” he said.
Shovein did his undergraduate work at the University of Michigan.
“I really came to Wayne Law in hopes of these externships,” he said, “not to mention Wayne’s great reputation in this region’s legal community. I also came here because I’ve had a lot of opportunities to live in different countries, to learn about other cultures, and I never fully indulged in Detroit’s culture. I grew up near the city (in Grosse Pointe Park) and spent a lot of time here during my childhood, but I always felt like it wasn’t enough. I really enjoy how diverse the city is.”
Terzieva will spend her eight-week fellowship working for the Dalit Foundation in New Delhi, India.
“The organization is centered on protecting and ending discrimination against the Dalit, the lowest caste in India’s caste system,” she said. “I was attracted to the mission, and after doing some research, was really impressed by their willingness to work with other grassroots organizations, sharing my belief that large-scale community effort leads to better success.”
A native of Sofia, Bulgaria, who now lives in Troy, Terzieva said she looks forward to visiting India.
“I owe a lot of my personality, work ethic, passion and overall outlook on life to my previous travels and encounters with diverse people and cultures,” she said. “Living in India alone for two and half months in itself will be life-changing. Interacting with and fighting for highly discriminated people will strengthen my human interaction skills as well as teach me how to successfully approach certain situations and people. Such lessons are ones that do not come out of a textbook, and could only be learned through hands-on experience.”
“The plan is to explore the world of international human rights law,” said Terzieva, who did her undergraduate work at Oakland University.
York will do her fellowship work with People’s Watch in Tamil Nadu, India.
“People’s Watch is a highly respected Indian human rights organization that monitors human rights violations, provides education and training to the community at large, and intervenes in legal issues,” she said. “People’s Watch monitors, reports and intervenes in violations such as police torture, custodial death, caste abuses and atrocities, violence against women, corporal punishment and violence against minorities.”
And those issues are exactly what interest her, she said.
“I would like to eventually work for an indigenous organization, preferably in West, Central or East Africa, that focuses on women’s rights,” York said.
As an undergraduate at Kingston University in England, she took a history course on genocide that “sparked my passion for human rights work,” she said.
“I was deeply affected by my case study on the 1994 genocide in Rwanda,” York said.
She went on to study comparative family law and international environmental law at the University of Nairobi Law School via a study-abroad program through Widener University School of Law in Delaware, and has traveled through Rwanda and northern Tanzania, as well. She earned a master’s degree at Eastern Michigan University.
York, while working at Legal Services of South Central Michigan in Ann Arbor, served as a volunteer with a domestic violence response team, and works with a number of other human rights groups as a Wayne State law student. She lives in Ferndale.
“These opportunities proved my talent for working with survivors of violence, and my love for such work,” York said. “Women’s rights are my passion.”