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Public Interest Scholars - Juris Doctor (JD)
USC Gould School of Law

Building upon USC Gould's longstanding tradition of legal service in the public interest, our Public Interest Scholars program honors the commitment of our students who are dedicated to serving the public interest. In addition to a merit-based scholarship awarded after admission, the benefits of selection as a Public Interest Scholar include:

  • access to the Public Interest Law certificate and mentorship opportunities
  • assistance from faculty and career services to secure employment in public interest legal work for the 1L summer. Previous scholars have secured placements in California, New York City, and Washington, D.C.
  • a guaranteed stipend to support unpaid 1L summer employment
  • eligibility to secure a stipend during 2L summer employment if working in qualifying public interest employment
  • a one-time travel stipend during the second or third year to support attendance to a professional development conference or opportunity focused on public interest law
  • future opportunities to engage the public interest community and mentor subsequent groups of Public Interest Scholars

Scholars are selected on the basis of merit and demonstrated commitment to public interest work. Selection criteria include strong academic indicators (LSAT score and undergraduate cumulative GPA) and significant achievements in the fields of public interest work or government service. The committee will give priority to applicants with a history of full-time nonprofit or public interest focused work.

To apply, applicants will be required to include a separate essay within the application for admission to USC Gould. This essay is in addition to the required personal statement and optional diversity statement. The essay should address the following prompt: In one to two pages, please highlight your public interest or government service background and your commitment to a career in public service.

Scholars will be expected to perform 25 pro bono hours each year and participate in certain programming, such as nonprofit career fairs.

For timely consideration in selection as a Public Interest Scholar, an application must be submitted and complete by the priority deadline of February 1st.

2019-20 Public Interest Scholars

Rebekah Baird

Undergraduate: University of California, Los Angeles

Rebekah grew up in Southern California and graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a BA in English and a minor in public affairs. As an undergraduate, she grew passionate about the issue of human trafficking, eventually interning with the local branch of a California nonprofit that provides holistic aftercare and support services for trafficking survivors.

Following graduation, Rebekah worked in nonprofit development while also serving as a policy research lead for an anti-trafficking organization focused on legislative solutions and grassroots advocacy.

As a law student, she hopes to explore the areas of criminal justice reform, civil rights law, international human rights law, and immigration reform. She is grateful to be surrounded by such a vibrant public interest community at USC Gould, and looks forward to gaining the tools to become an effective legal advocate for her future clients.

Christopher Barwick

Undergraduate: Brown University

Chris Barwick grew up in Southern California and graduated from Brown University in 2016 with a BA in political science. As an undergraduate, he interned for multiple members of Congress in their Washington, D.C. and California offices. These experiences inspired Chris to pursue a full-time job in Congress.

After he graduated, Chris worked for U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein as a field representative. In this role, he worked with senior staff on solutions to some of California’s most pressing issues, conducted local oversight, and served as a liaison to the Southern California community. He is very excited to attend the USC Gould School of Law and is honored to be a part of the Public Interest Scholars program.

Samuel Clark-Clough

Undergraduate: Boston University

Samuel grew up in Oakland, California and earned a BA from Boston University. At BU, he double majored in political science and international relations and minored in Spanish. During his time as an undergraduate, Sam interned for the Minister of Justice and Civil Liberties in the British House of Commons and for an education think tank in Madrid. He also volunteered as an after-school tutor for English language learner (ELL) students in Boston and as an education tutor at the Framingham Women’s Prison.

After college, Sam joined the Peace Corps. For two years, he lived and worked in an Emberá village in the Darién Jungle of Panama. Living in the jungle, Sam cut his lawn with a machete, learned how to build a dugout canoe, and overcame his fear of snakes very quickly. The Emberá people work hard to preserve their indigenous culture and Sam considers it a great privilege to have lived in that village. During his service, he and his community members designed a solar energy project and won a grant to fund the majority of their proposal. The primary beneficiaries were women who used the solar lights to weave baskets and plates to sell in the city, and children who had previously done their homework by flashlight.

Sam chose law school because he believes that the law is a powerful instrument for social justice. Public service led him to law school, and he chose USC Gould primarily for the Public Interest Scholars program. He is excited to begin his career as an attorney and is always looking for the next adventure.

Alaina Flores

Undergraduate: University of California, Santa Barbara

Alaina grew up in Riverside, Calif. before attending the University of California, Santa Barbara for her undergraduate studies. She graduated in 2018 with honors and distinction in environmental studies and sociology. During this time, Alaina was highly involved in numerous student organizations. She interned with the university’s Alcohol and Drug Program, was a course grader for the sociology department, and worked for the university’s Disabled Students Program. She also served as the president of her sorority (Tri Delta), was a member of the UCSB dance team, studied European Union law abroad in the Netherlands, and participated in research for both of her majors.

Alaina first developed a passion for public interest and nonprofit work during her time at UCSB. For four years, Alaina helped her sorority raise money for their philanthropy, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. She organized events and held fundraisers for children with life threatening diseases. She also served her community through her internship with the Alcohol and Drug Program where her goal was to lower the rates of alcohol and drug related incidents through peer education and community outreach.

Alaina fostered her interest in pursuing a law degree through her major’s coursework on environmental law and animal welfare law. She wrote a thesis on the intersectionality of environmental and animal welfare legislation and its effects on the agricultural system in the United States. After graduation, Alaina moved to Washington, D.C. to intern with the Humane Society Legislative Fund, a nonprofit affiliate of the Humane Society of the United States. There, she focused on advancing pro-animal welfare legislation through community activism and lobbying Congress. Alaina is incredibly honored to be chosen as a 2019 Public Interest Scholar and looks forward to applying her passion for public interest and social justice through the many opportunities to come at USC and beyond.

Nancy Goodes

Undergraduate: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Nancy is from the small-town of Reidsville, North Carolina and earned her Bachelor's degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She graduated in 2018 as a public policy major, and with minors in sustainability studies and P.P.E. (philosophy, politics & economics).. In her final semester as an undergraduate, she took an environmental law course taught by Professor Donald Hornstein and decided to conduct research for him following graduation. This experience catalyzed her pursuit of an environmental law career.

During her gap year before law school, Nancy worked for Environment Ohio on climate solutions, PennEnvironment on their clean air campaign, and the Florida House of Representatives during their legislative session. She finally made her way back home to North Carolina this past summer by interning for the Bald Head Island Conservancy, which focuses on sea turtle conservation.

As a Public Interest Scholar, Nancy aims to continue to center her legal career around sustainability initiatives. She is excited to learn what new opportunities and challenges will be offered to her in the field of environmental law. With the support and guidance of the Public Interest Scholars program, she is also excited to take them on.

Linzie Hoffman

Undergraduate: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Linzie was born and raised in St. Louis, Mo. She graduated summa cum laude in 2012 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a double major in sociology and African American studies. After graduation, she moved to Los Angeles and began working for a small real estate company where she helped low income families navigate the process of securing affordable, subsidized housing. Linzie simultaneously explored her love of music and acting and their intersection with social justice. She played a lead role in the Second City Hollywood musical, “Afros and Ass Whoopins," a political satire about police brutality in America. After each show, the cast led the audience in open discussions in hopes of creating a community space where people of color felt safe in their skin while discussing police accountability.

Linzie went on to work for St. Joseph’s Center, a nonprofit in Venice, Calif. that provides a multitude of services and resources to Angelenos experiencing homelessness. Linzie’s three years in the nonprofit world further solidified her commitment and desire to stand in the gap for marginalized communities. She believes the law to be the best avenue for her to create the kind of change she wants to see.

The history of USC’s Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF) is what made Linzie fall in love with USC Gould. She was inspired to learn that PILF was birthed thanks to dedicated students who saw a need and decided to meet that need with action. She is honored to have the opportunity to be a part of that legacy as she continues her career in public interest.

Matthew Palmquist

Undergraduate: Georgetown University

Matt was born and raised amongst the apple-speckled farmlands of Eastern Washington. It was there, through conversations with his Burger King coworkers, that he learned of the draconian nature of our outdated immigration system, and developed the passion for migrant advocacy that guides him to this day.

Matt graduated from Georgetown University in 2017 with a BA in Spanish and sociology with a concentration in social policy. During his undergraduate career, funded partially by the Burger King Scholarship Foundation, he interned for multiple organizations that provided legal assistance to refugees. When one of them, the Refugee Alliance Network, was in dire need of funds, Matt designed, produced, and sold T-shirts at the 2017 Women’s March, bearing the slogan of one of his previous protest signs: “Roses are red; tacos are enjoyable; don’t blame a Mexican just because you’re unemployable.” By capitalizing on the progressive energy of the largest single-day protest in U.S. history, he raised both money and lasting awareness for an organization committed to refugee empowerment.

After graduating, Matt was selected as a Fulbright fellow to Mexico, where he taught English and worked at a nonprofit legal organization dedicated to helping asylum seekers. After his fellowship, Matt returned to the Pacific Northwest to join Boundless Immigration, a Seattle-based startup making software to help guide applicants through the immigration process.

Outside of class, Matt enjoys running long distances, eating large meals, and learning new languages. He hopes to use his JD and the opportunities afforded to him as a Public Interest Scholar to fight for migrants' rights and reshape U.S. immigration policy for the better.

Maura Reinbrecht

Undergraduate: New York University

Maura grew up outside of Reading, Penn. and graduated from New York University in 2017 with a double major in Spanish and global liberal studies and a concentration in politics, rights & development. While studying in Buenos Aires for two semesters, she interned at “Asociación Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia” (Civil Association for Equality and Justice). She helped with Spanish to English translation and researched inclusive education in the city, which led her to think critically about public education in the U.S.

As she became increasingly interested in improving education for young migrants, Maura wrote her undergraduate thesis about the difficulties unaccompanied Latinx minors face in U.S. public schools. She conducted related research in Guatemala, a children’s shelter in Brownsville, Tex and at a high school in Los Angeles known as a refuge for migrant children. Additionally, she worked as a translator and interpreter at NYU Law’s Immigrant Rights Clinic, helping 3Ls communicate with Spanish speakers in removal proceedings.

After graduating, Maura worked at a business immigration law firm as a paralegal for one year, after which she returned to Reading and worked at Community Justice Project helping clients file for DACA renewal, naturalization, U visas and petition for visas under the Violence Against Women Act. For six months, she lived in Mexico City and served as the volunteer coordinator at “Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración” (Institute for Women in Migration), where she gave presentations on U.S. asylum to Central American migrants.

Maura is excited to be part of the Public Interest Scholars community and she is eager to learn more about immigration and education law at USC Gould while taking advantage of the many related opportunities in Los Angeles.

2018-19 Public Interest Scholars

Alina Edep

Undergraduate: Georgetown University

Alina grew up in South Florida before heading to D.C. to attend Georgetown University (Hoya Saxa!). She graduated with honors in 2018 with a BA in psychology with minors in Spanish and sociology. During her undergraduate career, she developed a passion for public interest work after interning with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in both Miami and D.C., as well as working as a research assistant studying juveniles in the criminal justice system who waive their right to an attorney. These experiences inspired her to apply to law school in order to one day become an attorney who makes a difference in these fields.

Alina largely chose USC Gould due to the Public Interest Scholars program and the opportunities it provides her to foster her passion for public interest through mentorship, summer job funding, and overall support. During her 1L summer, she worked as a law clerk at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office in the Organized Crime division. During her 2L year, she will complete an externship with the California Attorney General’s Office in the Civil Rights Enforcement Section of the Public Rights Division. She is also the president of the Armenian Law Students Association, on the board of the Criminal Law Society, and a member of the Hale Moot Court Honors Program.

Taylor Jones

Undergraduate: Claremont McKenna College

Prior to attending Gould, Taylor served as the policy manager for Zero-Emission Vehicle Infrastructure in the Office of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. During her five-year tenure, she worked on a small team responsible for implementing the governor’s vision for clean transportation. She developed strategies to accelerate zero-emission vehicle adoption in California and coordinated the statewide efforts to make plug-in electric and hydrogen fueling stations commonplace in California.

Taylor’s introduction to state government began with the California Capital Fellows Program, a yearlong post-graduate opportunity to work at the highest level of state government. In the Governor’s Office, she developed competency in a broad range of environmental issues including toxic substances, sustainable buildings, and clean transportation, which emerged as her focus area. During the summer of 2019, Taylor served as a law clerk in the Environment Section of the California Attorney General’s Office, focusing on toxic tort litigation.

As a Public Interest Scholar, Taylor looks forward to bringing her enthusiasm for public service to the USC Gould community and continuing to explore the intersection of people and the environment. She is consistently energized by the magnitude of the challenges ahead and the short timeline to make progress.

Jesse Mentz

Undergraduate: University of Southern California

Jesse grew up in Indianapolis, moving to Los Angeles 11 years ago to pursue his BA (and eventually MA) in international relations at USC. While completing his first two degrees, he interned for an international anti-trafficking agency, the Scottish Parliament, and the U.S. Department of State. He devoted most of his MA to studying the anti-trafficking movement. Through these experiences, Jesse developed a deep appreciation for the importance of a functioning public justice system.

After graduating and marrying his wife (also a Trojan), Jesse spent more than five years working in finance, first as a consultant at a real estate valuation firm and later as an investment analyst for an endowment. While applying for law school, Jesse and his wife welcomed their first child into the world.

Jesse's relationship with Jesus motivates him to pursue law, having become convinced that the God of the Bible cares deeply about issues of violence, injustice, and oppression. Jesse spent last summer as an intern at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California. He is part of the International Human Rights Clinic at USC Gould, and he hopes to work in the criminal justice system upon graduation.

Jesse enjoys craft coffee, the sound of a jazz trio and a mandolin, conversations about theology, the crisp air of Yosemite Valley, and spending time with his family.

Mirelle Raza

Undergraduate: Santa Clara University

Mirelle grew up in Boston before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area for her undergraduate studies in 2012. During her time at Santa Clara University (SCU), Mirelle was contracted at the Santa Clara County Office of Women's Policy, working specifically on policy and legislative initiatives including violence against women, criminal justice, and living wage ordinances. Mirelle later used her policy experience to co-author a petition that served as the largest student response to modifications regarding SCU faculty and staff access to reproductive health care. In her last year, Mirelle was accepted to a social justice study abroad program in Europe where she volunteered at a home for abused girls, while also participating in social justice projects in Italy, Croatia, and Bosnia. Mirelle graduated 14 months early magna cum laude with a double major in sociology and women's and gender studies.

Post-graduation, Mirelle went on to work for the San Francisco District Attorney's office as a victim advocate, specializing in sexual assault, child abuse, and human trafficking cases; it is here that she found a true passion for working closely with survivors of violence and was inspired to become an even stronger advocate by pursuing a Juris Doctor.

In her first year of law school she became active in many of USC Gould’s student organizations and has taken on leadership roles for her 2L year as president of the Public Interest Law Foundation and academic chair of the C. David Molina First Generation Professionals program. She has also been accepted into USC Gould’s International Human Rights Clinic. Mirelle was awarded the Beverly Hills Bar Association Public Interest Scholarship, the Women’s Law Association of Los Angeles Scholarship, and was named a South Asian Bar Association of Washington, D.C. Public Interest Fellow. She spent her 1L summer as a law clerk at the U.S. Department of Justice in their Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section focusing on federal prosecution of child pornography, child exploitation, and “sex tourism.” Mirelle is honored to be a part of USC Gould Public Interest Scholars program and looks forward to continuing to build connections with her classmates, mentors, and local public service leaders.

Ally Wong

Undergraduate: Purdue University

Ally was born and raised in Northern California. She graduated from Purdue University with a BA in history and philosophy. As an undergraduate, Ally was actively engaged in a variety of research projects related to policy and politics, including the impact of racial composition on state legislatures, the effects of appearance on female elected officials, and the experiences of Chinese students during the Chinese Exclusion Act. In her senior year, she became particularly interested in environmental issues after assisting in research on net zero energy housing policy.

Outside of school, she interned and worked in government offices at the local, state and federal level. These professional experiences instilled in her the importance of community engagement and political activism at every level of government. After graduation, Ally continued to cultivate her dedication and passion for policy by working in a congressional office.

During her 1L summer, Ally served as a law clerk for Senator Mazie K. Hirono’s Judiciary Committee staff, where she worked on judicial nominations, immigration, criminal justice reform and partisan gerrymandering policy. In the fall semester, Ally will be working as an extern for Earthjustice’s Los Angeles Office.

Ally is excited to continue her education at USC Gould, and she is grateful for the support and community provided through the Public Interest Scholars program.

2017-18 Public Interest Scholars

Erika Ingram

Undergraduate: University of Southern California

Erika was born and raised in Southern California. She graduated from the University of Southern California with a BA in international relations. As an undergraduate, she joined numerous service organizations, studied abroad in Rwanda and Jordan, interned as a member of JusticeCorps, and interned for the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office. After graduating, she spent her gap year at the Edmund D. Edelman Children's Court working for the judicial officers and research attorneys.

As a Public Interest Scholar, Erika plans to continue her work in public service and give back to the Los Angeles community. She is passionate about the issues of child welfare, human trafficking and criminal justice, and her hope is to be an empowering voice and advocate for her clients. Throughout her 1L year, Erika volunteered at different Public Interest Law Foundation clinics and was active in the Teen Court program through the Latino Law Students Association. During the summer of 2018, Erika served as a law clerk for the Children's Law Center of California. She enjoyed interacting with clients and advocating in court.

As a 2L, Erika externed for the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office and now as a 3L, she joined USC Gould's Post-Conviction Justice Project (PCJP). Erika is excited to continue her education at USC and further her involvement with the Trojan Family. She is very grateful to be surrounded by a public interest community that offers so much support and guidance.

Nassim Moallem

Undergraduate: San Diego State University

Nassim grew up in Silicon Valley before moving down to Southern California to attend San Diego State University. She graduated summa cum laude with a double major in women's studies and political science, and a double minor in honors interdisciplinary studies and television, film, and new media. Her work as a feminist student activist informed her impassioned pursuit of social justice. Nassim also served as a Panetta Institute Congressional Intern for the D.C. Office of Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. This inspired Nassim to pursue law school with the goal of one day holding public office herself.

In her first summer at USC, Nassim worked for the Immigrant Defenders Law Center assisting their Adult Representation Project in removal defense work. She primarily assisted with cases for detained clients, drawing a better understanding of how U.S. laws and the legal system continue to criminalize immigrants and prevent their access towards legal status. During her second year, Nassim enrolled in the USC Post-Conviction Justice Project (PCJP) where she worked with currently incarcerated people to prepare and represent them at their parole hearings. This past summer, Nassim worked for the nonprofit legal advocacy organization Root & Rebound based in Oakland. She performed direct services to empower system-impacted individuals facing barriers due to their criminal record, and produced a policy memo on gaps in California's parole and probation systems.

Her recent experiences have grounded her critiques of the criminal justice system and current policies of mass incarceration, along with her desire to work towards a world with a nonviolent, transformative, and restorative vision of justice.

Jared Osborne

Undergraduate: New York University

Jared was born and raised in Chino Hills, Calif. He attended New York University and majored in art history. Afterwards, Jared joined Teach for America. He moved to Mississippi and worked just across the Mississippi River in Helena, Ark. as an elementary school art teacher from 2009-2011. He spent the following school year teaching third grade in Lambert, Miss. and earned his Master’s degree in elementary education from Delta State University (home of the Fighting Okra!). He then returned to New York to live in Brooklyn where he spent two years teaching third grade. Following that, Jared branched out into the nonprofit world, working at iMentor, where he helped 10th graders cultivate strong mentor/mentee relationships with local area professionals. Despite Brooklyn's many charms, Jared returned to Lambert yet again to teach fourth grade from 2015-2017.

Jared’s teaching experiences inspired his desire to work in public interest and led him to USC. After his teaching career, Jared has enjoyed the chance to be a student again. During his 1L year he volunteered with both Street Law and CARES. He spent the 2018 summer working in the housing and communities work group at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. As a 2L, he externed at the Western Center on Law & Poverty in the fall and was a staff member on the Southern California Law Review. Jared spent the past summer in a Foundation for Advocacy Inclusion & Resources (FAIR) 2019 Employee Justice clerkship at Hennig, Ruiz & Singh. He will continue working there throughout the year and looks forward to enjoying his last year of law school.

Ricca Prasad

Undergraduate: George Washington University

Prior to coming to law school, Ricca worked in community-based health programming and research. She earned her BS and Master’s degree in public health from George Washington University. While attending school, she worked on a variety of research projects, including using drawing prompts as a child-friendly method of data collection, motivational interviewing with women in drug treatment court, measuring and addressing social barriers to patients’ adherence to treatment plans, and providing housing to improve health outcomes for homeless patients.

Ricca worked with the National Association of Community Health Centers for two years while earning her MPH. She then spent two years working for the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers in Camden, N.J., first as an AmeriCorps volunteer and then as a program assistant.

As a law student at USC Gould, Ricca has continued to pursue the interest that led her to law school -- criminal justice reform. She works part-time for the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law on a policy project to advocate for gender-responsive policies in the Los Angeles County women’s jail. She also represented three clients in state prison with life sentences in their pursuit of parole during her second year of law school through USC Gould’s Post-Conviction Justice Project (PCJP).

Ariana Stobaugh

Undergraduate: University of Southern California

Ariana grew up in Reno but moved to Los Angeles in 2009 when she attended USC as an undergraduate. At USC, Ariana worked at AmeriCorps' JumpStart and served as a women's youth mentor with Women and Youth Supporting Each Other, a health educator through Peer Health Exchange, and a volunteer with the Joint Educational Project.

After graduating with a double major in political science and sociology, Ariana joined Teach for America and taught high school English in Los Angeles for four years. While teaching, Ariana received her Master's degree in urban education policy from Loyola Marymount University and became the English department chair at her school.

During her 1L year, she was a 1L rep for the Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF) and Connecting Angelenos to Resources and Essential Services (CARES). She served as a summer clerk at Public Counsel's Audrey Irmas Women and Girls' Rights Project. During her 2L year, she was a legal writing fellow, on Southern California Law Review, served as the faculty and alumni relations chair for PILF, and was a Medical-Legal Community Partnership practicum student at the Neighborhood Legal Services Los Angeles. She worked as a summer associate in the corporate health care practice group at Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton. During her 3L year, she will serve as a legal writing fellow, the Executive Notes editor for the Law Review, and hopes to volunteer at Planned Parenthood and for the Elizabeth Warren presidential campaign. She looks forward to her goal of working to advance access to health care and advocate for women's reproductive rights.

Vivian Zambrano

Undergraduate: California State University, Northridge

Vivian was born and raised in Los Angeles. She graduated from California State University, Northridge, earning a BA in history in 2014 and an MA in history in 2016. As a graduate student, she worked as a teacher's assistant helping instruct courses on western civilization and volunteered at a domestic violence and family law self-help center. She interned with Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County to help provide free legal services to underserved communities in Los Angeles. Her work has focused on family law, assisting self-represented litigants with divorce, paternity, and domestic violence restraining order cases.

After graduate school, Vivian completed a yearlong JusticeCorps Fellowship in a courthouse self-help center. She pioneered daily family law workshops for pro se litigants by developing a legal curriculum and training undergraduate volunteers.

During her 1L summer, Vivian worked with Public Counsel's Immigrants' Rights project, helping children, detainees, and victims of human trafficking obtain legal status. As a 2L, Vivian was a board member of the Latino Law Students Association and the Womxn of Color Collective while working with USC Gould's Immigration Detention and Appellate Clinic and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. Vivian has also worked as an advocate for children’s rights through Public Counsel’s Children’s Rights Project and Children’s Law Center of California and is excited to join and contribute to the new public interest communities.