Create Change – Summer 2023

Associate Dean's Message

Diane Chin

Dear SLS Community,

I retire from the law school this summer with so much gratitude – to the wonderful staff and faculty colleagues who have allowed me to partner with them and who have supported my work, to my students and alumni who have taught me and learned with me, and to all of the members (old and new) of the Levin Center team who made my work deeply fulfilling as well as fun.

My retirement party was a bit of an overwhelming blur but I thank all those who joined us, especially the alumni who travelled from afar, as well as those who could not but sent many calls, notes, and emails.

For those who were not at the event, I share excerpts from my remarks below.

I was raised by a mother and maternal grandmother whose constant questions were: “Are you being useful?” and “How can you be helpful?” It was hammered into me young that being of service to others was the greatest expression of being fully human.

I have no unique talents that have allowed the success attributed to me at SLS. As Pauli Murray said, “What is often called exceptional ability is nothing more than persistent endeavor.” And, of course, no one accomplishes anything of import alone. I have benefited from incredible
partnerships, support, and guidance throughout my time at the law school.

There are no words that can sufficiently express how grateful I am to have been able to learn from, support, work alongside of, and be inspired by two decades of Stanford law students and graduates. Each individual student has taught and stretched me, as much as I hope I taught and stretched them, and helped deepen my own understanding of the law and of social change. With my alumni friends, I have been touched to continue in that relationship of mutuality, learning with and from you, and gratefully having my soul fed by your inspired and inspiring work as well as your friendship.

You have all made my time at Stanford deeply rewarding, personally and professionally. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and the center of my soul.

I know my role
I lean into my strengths
I am a pebble
Tossing myself into the ocean
With a wish of whispered hopes
To create ripples that will become
Tidal waves for change

Thanks so much for allowing me to be a pebble in your oceans. Thank you for the tidal waves you have become and will be as powerful and positive forces for change.

I have been honored and humbled to serve the Stanford Law School community, and grateful for the work and teaching I have been allowed to pursue. I am so excited to watch and support the next phase of growth and expansion under Anna Wang’s leadership.

With great fondness and much appreciation,

Shannon Al-Wakeel Will Be the Next Executive Director of the Levin Center

Shannon Al-Wakeel

With great thanks to the students, staff, and faculty who joined the Levin Center staff in evaluating a deep pool of talented candidates, we are thrilled to announce that we have identified the next executive director of the Levin Center. Shannon Al-Wakeel will join SLS in August following three years as managing director of the Center for Public Interest Advocacy and Collaboration at Northeastern Law School, where she developed and orchestrated interdisciplinary research, student opportunities, and events that furthered its public interest mission.

“I’m excited to join the Levin Center and Stanford Law School in the critical work of continually strengthening public interest culture, education and practice,” said Shannon Al-Wakeel. “Public service and public interest values aren’t confined to certain settings; they can animate such a wide spectrum of legal pursuits. I look forward to working with the extraordinary SLS community, at the forefront of legal education, to maximize our profession’s impact as a force for public good.”

Shannon’s career has also encompassed movement lawyering, systemic policy advocacy, and direct legal representation, as well as nonprofit formation and leadership. Shannon was founding executive director of Muslim Justice League (MJL), a Boston-based non-profit advocating for rights that are threatened in the name of national security, which she co-founded with three other Muslim women in response to the federal “countering violent extremism” campaign launched in 2014. Her work with MJL expanded free representation for people pressured to speak with FBI and other Joint Terrorism Task Force agents and cultivated resistance to surveillance, coercion, and criminalization of Muslim and other “suspect” communities. Previously, her work as a Kaufman Public Interest Fellow with Massachusetts Law Reform Institute’s Immigrants Protection Project, and then as state policy director of Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, contributed to the advancement of immigrants’ rights at municipal, state and federal levels.

Shannon received a bachelor of fine arts focused on printmaking from the University of Pennsylvania in conjunction with Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and her law degree with honors from Harvard Law School. She is a member of the Massachusetts Bar and has served on the Boards of Directors of the New England Muslim Bar Association, Massachusetts Coalition for Adult Education, and ACLU of Massachusetts. She presently serves on the Board of Directors of Defending Rights and Dissent, an organization working to strengthen participatory democracy by protecting the right to political expression.

Anna Wang, the Levin Center’s current executive director who will become associate dean in August upon Diane’s retirement, said, “Shannon brings a wealth of experience in nonprofit and law school center management and operations, an impressive record of public interest work in immigrant and refugee rights, an incredibly thoughtful and conscientious perspective, and an unwavering dedication to students. I am confident Shannon will be a wonderful addition to the Levin Center team and the SLS community.”

New Summer Fellowship Honors Steven M. Block, JD '76, Pioneering Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Advocate

Steven M. Block, JD ’76

The Law School is pleased to announce a summer fellowship named after Steven M. Block, JD ’76, which is intended to support a Stanford law student who will spend their summer working on promoting civil liberties, advancing the right to privacy, or challenging discrimination based upon race, religion, creed, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, disability or age. The first Block Fellow will be named later this summer. This opportunity is generously supported by friends, family, and classmates who wanted to create a lasting tribute for Block.

After graduating from Stanford Law School in 1976, Block clerked for the Honorable Robert Peckham, the chief judge of the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California. He then joined Heller, Ehrman, White & McAuliffe and maintained a robust pro bono practice by donating his time and energy to a number of worthwhile causes. Block was a founder of the Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom (BALIF), the LGBTQI+ bar association in the San Francisco Bay Area, in 1980. Per the BALIF website, “BALIF was founded to encourage LGBTQI legal professionals to apply to become judges. At the time there were no openly LGBTQI judges.” While at Heller Ehrman, Block worked on landmark cases involving the rights of lesbians and gay men to be free of discrimination in the workplace and to be treated fairly in military service. Block also served on the board of directors for the ACLU of Northern California.

In the fall of 1983, Block accepted a position as an associate professor of law with the University of Minnesota School of Law. He was a beloved member of that law school community and made a strong impact before he passed away in October 1984. A group of gay and lesbian students contributed to a tribute to Block that appears in the Minnesota Journal of Law and Inequality, noting that, “For lesbian and gay students, the law school is oppressive and silencing. Steve Block’s presence and openness created a safe space for us. He was a friend, a spokesperson, and an advocate. Steve was proud to be a gay man. He did not deny who he was. He tested the waters and came out to the small Twin Cities gay and lesbian legal community, to individual students and professors, to the Dean, then to the entire faculty. That enabled him to represent himself with integrity, and to be a role model. Steve was tireless in his political and scholarly efforts in the areas of civil liberties and civil rights. He concerned himself with areas of scholarship research and litigation that others chose not to pursue.”

“How much more Steve surely would have accomplished in a full measure of years,” recalls his brother, Rabbi Richard A. Block, a strong supporter of the summer fellowship. “Nonetheless, his courage, admirable leadership and groundbreaking achievements represent an enduring legacy. Those who strive to bring more justice and compassion to the world inspired by his example do him honor and continue his sacred work.”

Students interested in the Steven M. Block Fellowship can contact Levin Center staff. One student will be named later this summer.

Spring Awards Reception Honors Public Interest Students and Community Leaders

On May 15, the SLS community gathered in Crocker Garden and the Russo Lounge to honor outstanding students, including the recipients of the Leon M. Cain Community Leadership Award, Deborah L. Rhode Public Interest Award, and Lisa M. Schnitzer Memorial Scholarship.

Dean Jenny Martinez presented the Leon M. Cain Community Leadership Awards to Christine Strauss, LLM '23; Royce Chang, JD '23; Charlotte Finegold, JD '24; and Amanpreet Singh, JD '25. Associate Dean Diane Chin introduced Daniel Ahrens, JD '23, and Kerry Guerin, JD '23, this year's co-recipients of the Deborah L. Rhode Public Interest Award. Mahshad Badii, JD '25, is this year's Lisa M. Schnitzer Memorial Scholarship recipient and was introduced by Jamie Halper, JD '24, the prior Schnitzer Scholarship recipient.

We also shared a slideshow recognizing graduating students and alumni who secured entry-level public interest jobs; graduating students who earned Pro Bono Distinction; students selected as Justice John Paul Stevens Fellows; and students who served as Pro Bono Project leaders, Public Interest Fellows, Public Interest Associates, and Public Interest Mentors.

Photos by Monica Schreiber


2023 Cain Award Recipients with Dean Jenny Martinez

Daniel Ahrens, JD '23

Deborah L. Rhode Award co-recipient

Associate Dean Diane Chin and Kerry Guerin, JD '23

Deborah L. Rhode Award co-recipient


Mahshad Badii, JD '25

Lisa M. Schnitzer Memorial Scholarship recipient

Thirty-eight students from Stanford Law School participated in Alternative Spring Break Pro Bono projects hosted by partners in six cities: ArchCity Defenders (St. Louis, MO), Las Americas (El Paso, TX), Michigan Legal + United Community Housing Coalition (Detroit, MI), Orleans Public Defenders (New Orleans, LA), Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (Laredo, TX), and Yurok Tribal Court (Klamath, CA). The students assisted in various areas, such as legal research, case preparation, client interviews, and community outreach. Their efforts contributed to advancing access to justice for underserved populations while gaining valuable skills and fostering a sense of social responsibility.

Pictured here are students who went to Laredo, TX to work with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid.

Alternative Break Trips

SLS Public Interest Alumni in the News

CA Governor Gavin Newsom has appointed Sabrina Forte, JD '14, as the Assistant Director of Equity and Inclusion at the Department of Social Services.

Brendan Ballou, Special Counsel at U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division, recently published his book, Plunder: Private Equity's Plan to Pillage America. The New York Times published an essay he wrote adapted from the book.

About Create Change

Back: Mike Winn, Anna Wang, Shafaq Khan, and Kevin Lo Front: Noelle Andrew, Diane Chin, and Melanie Stone
Image by Monica Schreiber

Create Change is designed and produced quarterly by the staff of the John and Terry Levin Center for Public Service and Public Interest Law. Unless specifically noted, all articles are written by staff:

Associate Dean for Public Service and Public Interest Law: Diane T. Chin
Executive Director: Anna Wang
Director, Pro Bono and Externship Programs: Mike Winn
Assistant Director, Public Interest Career Development Program: Shafaq Khan
Public Interest Career Counselor: Kevin Lo
Program Manager: Melanie Stone
Research Assistant: Noelle Andrew, BA ’24

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