2018–2021 Innovation Grant Recipients

Innovation Grant Recipients – 2020–2021

Project Leader: Paula Zampietro, J.D. ’22

With students of color now more than ever being disproportionately affected by the pandemic, the financial crisis, social unrest, and public policy, Paula hopes to create a unified and cohesive space dedicated to supporting and elevating these students. By establishing a Coalition for Diversity, made up of representatives from across student organizations, Paula hopes that student leaders will be able to address diversity issues in a more holistic way. While individually, student organizations do a lot to support diversity within CLS, there is no unified, student-led body to discuss diversity issues and provide feedback to the administration. The Coalition for Diversity embraces the motto that we are stronger together. Paula envisions that the Coalition will: respond to societal events and social issues that demand attention in a coordinated and unified way (i.e., the horrific killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tessa Major, among others); report to the administration on areas of improvement with concrete issues the administration should address, such as hiring more diverse faculty to teach black letter law classes and addressing the disparity in grades between white students and students of color, brought to light by previous alumni on the Columbia Law Review with access to student grades; and organizing ways to celebrate diversity such as a monthly seminars on relevant diversity topics and an annual Global Diversity Conference.

Project Leader: Alexis Banks, J.D. '22

After a year at Columbia Law School, Alexis Banks was struck by the interactions that indicated that racism and racist ideologies still had a foothold within the law school. After a pandemic that disproportionately affected Black and brown Americans radically changed our lives and a renewed movement for racial equality returned to the nation's streets, Alexis felt the need to hear the stories of Columbia Law students and document their experience with racism at the school. Ultimately, the goal of translating these stories to film is that by engaging with these narratives, Columbia Law School can identify a way to become an anti-racist, liberated institution.

Project Leader: Marcus Liang, J.D. '21

Prior to attending law school, Marcus performed pro bono work under a free legal advice scheme to assist underprivileged members of the public. From this experience, Marcus became acutely aware of the anxiety and anguish that people endured when they were denied access to legal channels and just resolutions of their matters. Therefore, one of Marcus's greatest motivations behind becoming a lawyer is to increase the public’s access to legal services and advance the rights of people who are unfairly prejudiced.

Through the Innovation Grant, Marcus aims to strengthen the resilience of Asian Americans in light of the disproportionate economic, health, and racial challenges that they are facing due to the pandemic. Marcus's project involves increasing Asian Americans’ access to pertinent resources such as financial assistance for small businesses, unemployment insurance, and protection against anti-Asian harassment, with an aim towards restoring the vibrant and diverse scenes in New York.

Project Leader: Paul Riley, J.D. '22

With a strong fascination with and interest in politics, Paul's project (Let's Run!) centers on educating, empowering, and electing Columbia Law School's next generation of political leaders at the local, state, and federal levels. Through podcasts, blog posts, an alumni speaker series, and practical campaigning workshops, he hopes to open CLS students' eyes to what is possible – not only within the judiciary branch, but the legislative branch as well. 

Innovation Grant Recipients – 2019–2020

Project Leader: Anita Yandle, JD ‘21 

In light of recent passage of laws criminalizing abortion, Anita Yandle wants to work to ensure reproductive healthcare is accessible for women. Drawing upon herexperience working with the Northwest Abortion Access Fund, Anita wants to create a system at Columbia University that helps women navigate complex laws, including flying people without documentation, bailing clients, and representing minors in judicial bypass hearings. Anita also envisions creating a guidebook to teach others how to navigate these laws. In creating this program, Anita hopes to ensure that all-volunteer organizations that have not previously had this help are properly supported, while providing an opportunity for CLS students to invest in complex project for pro bono hours.

Project Leader: Elsa Wyllie, LLM ‘20

Motivated by a social responsibility to address the urgency of climate change, Elsa Wyllie is stepping up to create impactful change at Columbia. After noticing a need at Columbia Law to create a more eco-friendly mindset, Elsa has proposed a multi-pronged approach to create a sustainable model for students and faculty to plastic. This includes lobbying to ensure the university’s endowment fund no longer holds investments in companies that generate more than 10 percent of their revenue from extraction of fossil fuels, building a borrowing space for students to donate old appliances or supplies for others to use, and banning single use plastic on campus.

Project Leader: Urvi Agarwal, LLM ‘20

Seeking to address the evolution of technology as one of the forefront fields in the world, Urvi Agarwal (LLM ‘20) is hoping to enable lawyers to both gain a competitive edge for clients and actively contribute to the shifting field of the intersections of technology and law. In a world where a basic understanding of computer programming is taken as a base understanding to thrive in most industries, technological literacy is becoming crucial in order for students to become lawyers who can successfully advise clients. As such, the goal of “Coding for Lawyers” is to both impart the importance of coding to law students, professors, and lawyers, and to enable these groups with the tools and opportunities to learn coding.

Project Leaders: Pamela Escano, Diana Pedi, Becca Shepler

Pamela Escano, Diana Pedi, and Becca Shepler are working to address how staff, specifically new and rising professionals with five or less years of experience at Columbia Law School, can feel supported to gain leadership skills and grow professionally. NPRHE is both important and timely because it supports the Law School’s ideals of being “a place of ideas, innovations, and impact.” The more engaged that staff are in professional development opportunities, the more likely they will be more effective in their roles. 

Project Leader: Suz Kroeber, JD ‘21

Upon identifying a need for free income tax preparation assistance in Northern Manhattan, Suz Kroeber (JD ‘21) was inspired to create a program for low-income tax assistance at Columbia Law School. By utilizing a small pilot program of a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, Suz intends to expand the program into experiential learning to create a long-term sustainable program. Suz’s goal is to build upon this pilot program and transform it into a robust pro bono experience for the student body in time for the 2020 spring tax season in order to integrate tax assistance for low income individuals into the fabric of social justice work at CLS. In the long term, Suz would like to built the VITA site into a tax externship in order to create a critical site to conduct intake, source potential cases, and serve as community contact for members of the externship.

Project Leader: Amira Perryman, JD ‘21

Inspired by The New York Times publication of the 1619 project, Amira Perryman (JD ‘21) hopes to show how slavery still affects our social, economic, and political structures today. By using the New York Times’ series, Amira hopes to start a broader conversation at Columbia Law School regarding slavery’s impact on the law and how this influences modern teachings of the law. In this capacity, Amira hopes to bring speakers to talk about the intersections of slavery and the law, create smaller working groups of faculty and students to brainstorm innovative ways to integrate the topic of slavery into the law school curriculum, and invite the student body into the conversation through school-wide panels or working groups. 

Innovation Grant Recipients – 2018–2019

Project Leader: Rosie Fatt

Utilizing the resources of the Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity and Columbia Law School students and staff, this project aims to bring a wider awareness among high school students and law students of the civic importance of combatting and deterring public corruption. The intended impact of the project is to expand the pre-existing dialogue and resources of Columbia Law School on the topic of public integrity to New York public school students to enrich communication and access to channels of dialogue between these communities, build capacity to have these dialogues, and to improve educational awareness around issues of corruption.

Project Leader: Vincent Ong

Description: This project explores how community and intentionally focused relationships can support the personal development and change work of law students and lawyers. It will develop and offer a pilot Immunity to Change workshop for students and staff engaged in leadership-related activities, along with tools to support and sustain peer coaching relationships at the law school and in practice.

Project Leaders: Marie-Marie de Fays & Carolina Núñez

This project aims to address the need to build leadership capacities among law students and lawyers. Through collaboration with the Leadership Development Working Group and others involved in leadership development at CLS, this project will form and support a sustainable leadership practice group at Columbia Law School that enables students to incorporate leadership capacities into their daily practice.

Project Leader: Dorothy Weldon

This collaborative pilot project, designed in partnership with the Bronx Freedom, trains and supports Columbia law Students in providing holistic and client-centered bail practices, enabling students to be licensed and to staff off-hour arraignment shifts that will pay bail and prevent clients from spending even one night in jail on excessive cash bail. By engaging students directly in bail payment and educating a new generation of lawyers about bail, the Columbia Bail Fund Project aims to build students’ capacity to make a powerful impact on one of the most pressing criminal justice issues of our time.

Project Leader: Emilie Schwarz

Spurred by the firm belief in the power of technology to reduce the resource issue experienced too often in the public interest legal sector, this project aims to develop an app that aims to: (1) enable domestic violence survivors to directly share evidence with attorneys in a secure platform and thus further their cases in a timely and cost-effective manner; and (2) provide survivors with information, resources and connections to help them rebuild their lives.  The project will also build law students’ understanding of how to use technology to empower victims of domestic violence and prosecutors.

Project Leaders: Jennifer Ange & Roy Sim

With a vision of helping law students transition smoothly and authentically into legal practice, this project’s goal is to build the leadership capacities of students so that they can navigate the challenging environment of the workplace. In collaboration with Career Services, a series of workshops will cultivate adaptive mindsets and practices that they can use to succeed and thrive in their legal practice

Project Leaders: Marcus Hunter & Kristen Dupard

This project aims to prepare students to run for office, serve as campaign managers, and play other important electoral roles. To meet the challenges of today’s political climate, the project will provide accessible, understandable podcasts and workshops, both on the experience of navigating campaigns and concrete skills such as campaign finance and narrative development. The project will collaborate with student organizations to achieve these goals, and will engage notable alumni, professors, and other campaign experts to provide insight about the challenges along the way

Project Leaders: Cassandra Gizzo, Cora Wu, Fanta Kamara, Naoko Takashima, & Vivian Elvers

This project seeks to address the imbalance in leadership roles of men and women in the legal field. Through launching on-line and in person dialogues among students, law firms, and legal organizations regarding the experience and design of the workplace environment, and conducting a study on the trends and changing perceptions of the workplace from various perspectives, the goal of this project is to raise awareness among students and law firms with regard to the gender gap in leadership and to bring people with different roles and identities together to find new and effective solutions.