Create Change – Winter 2023

Executive Director's Message

Be the change you wish to see in the world . . . – Gandhi

Anna Wang - Photo by Christine Baker-Parrish

After a particularly epic series of winter storms here in Northern California, I feel like we are finally starting to see glimmers of nice weather. Change is in the air. As spring approaches, it always makes me think of renewal and growth, which seems appropriate as we are also experiencing some major changes at the Levin Center.

Many of you have heard by now that Diane Chin will be stepping down from her associate dean role this coming summer. I regret I couldn’t convince her to stay for another 20 years. Diane has been an inspiring leader, creative thought partner, and treasured mentor for so many of our law students, faculty, and staff. I am honored to be taking on that role upon her departure and am committed to continuing to grow our public interest community and the resources that support it. This means we will be hiring a new executive director. Please help us promote this opportunity widely.

While we will miss Diane, she won’t be a stranger to the law school. She will remain involved in the undergraduate diversity pipeline program she helped to create and launch, our Stanford Law Scholars Institute, for years to come and may also teach now and again. We are hosting a party to celebrate Diane’s retirement on May 4th. Please join us if you can. You will hear more later and directly from Diane in a future edition of Create Change before she leaves.

Titi Liu will also leave us to explore new opportunities at the end of winter quarter. Read more below about the incredible impact she has had on this institution and the robust international public interest programs she developed for our students and public interest attorneys around the globe. I know how much our students and alumni have benefited from Titi’s guidance. Fortunately, I am delighted to share that one of our former students, Kevin Lo, JD ’11, is returning to campus to build upon her legacy. Kevin will bring his unique perspective to this important work and ensure our students interested in international public interest careers continue to receive wise counsel.

Other articles in this issue include the announcement of a new summer fellowship program designed to support students who will advocate for farmworkers in California in memory of Gene Martinez, JD ’75; a gallery of photos from our first post-pandemic major event, the Fall Public Service Awards; and an update from the students who traveled to the border to work with human rights NGOs.

As always, I hope you enjoy reading this newsletter documenting what is happening in the public interest community at SLS and welcome your feedback.


Titi Liu Built Robust International Law Program, Leaving Strong Foundation for Successor

Mina Titi Liu
Image by Christine Baker

After more than a decade of serving as our Director of International Public Interest Initiatives, Titi Liu will be leaving Stanford at the end of Winter quarter. During her tenure, Liu built a robust program to support students focused on international public interest careers. Not only did she leverage her prior relationships in international law to connect our students and alumni to opportunities, she also created new relationships and identified ongoing partners.

Liu worked closely with faculty and students, including the Stanford International Law Society and Stanford Immigration and Human Rights Law Association, to create a vibrant community at SLS committed to international law practice. Over the years, she regularly hosted events at her home for faculty, students, alumni, and public interest attorneys to gather and meet one another.

Sydney Speizman, JD ’23, stated, “Titi has been an invaluable source of support and knowledge for the public interest community at SLS, particularly for those of us interested in global human rights and related issues. In addition to providing career counseling drawn from her wealth of experience, she also gone above and beyond to organize talks, teach a course, and build community for students interested in this field. I know I speak for more than just myself in saying that it is hard to imagine my time at SLS without Titi, and I am so grateful to have been one of her advisees!”

Omar Shakir, JD ’13, the Israel and Palestine Director at Human Rights Watch, shared, “Titi has been there for every step of my journey from law school through a decade of practice as a human rights lawyer working on issues from Egyptian repression and Israeli apartheid to Guantanamo and US police surveillance. She takes a personal stake in everyone she works with, consistently seeking opportunities to let them shine and cultivating meaningful connections and real community for those working in human rights. She’ll leave behind a massive void and be greatly missed.”

For several years, Liu also ran a program focused on supporting public interest attorneys seeking to build rule of law in transitional societies. The Levin Center hosted visiting fellows from a number of transitional societies around the world, including in South Africa and Syria. These visiting fellows mentored our students and were connect to resources to address leadership as well as organizational development challenges and opportunities in their home countries. See more details on our website.

Associate Dean Diane Chin remarked upon Liu’s departure that “Titi has been a critical member of the Levin Center team from the moment she arrived. Knowing that we needed to expand our internal capacity to advise both JD and advanced degree students in the international public interest realm, we could not have been luckier than to have Titi join us more than 10 years ago. She has counseled and supported hundreds of SLS students and graduates so they could pursue their dreams. Titi will be missed.”

We are fortunate that Kevin Lo, JD ’11, will be joining the Levin Center this spring, to provide career counseling to those with international as well as domestic public interest goals. Lo, similarly to Liu, has an extensive background in both international and domestic practice, having worked in the U.K., throughout Asia as well as with domestic nonprofit civil rights groups and unions.

Chin shared, “We are so excited to bring Kevin back to SLS. His professional experiences and connections will serve our students and alumni incredibly well. Plus, his understanding of SLS, history with the Levin Center, and Kevin’s warmth and commitment to supporting our community, will be invaluable as the Center enters a new phase.”

The Levin Center will host a lunch reception on Wed., March 8 to reflect on Titi Liu’s accomplishments and welcome Kevin Lo back to campus. Please RSVP here.

Liu shared, “While I will miss the SLS community so much, I am excited for new adventures and experiences and thrilled to leave the international program in such great hands.”

Lo commented, “I’ve benefited so much from Titi’s guidance and wisdom over the years, and I’m excited to build upon the incredible legacy she leaves behind. I’m looking forward to joining the Levin Center team and deepening my connection with the public interest community at Stanford Law.”

New Summer Fellowship Program Created In Honor of Gene Martinez, JD '75

The Levin Center is pleased to announce the creation of a new summer fellowship program intended to support a Stanford law student who works on behalf of low-income farmworkers in California, preferably in the San Joaquin Valley. The fund is being endowed by the classmates of Eugene “Gene” Martinez, JD ’75, a beloved member of the Stanford Law School community who passed away on November 6, 2020. The Stanford Lawyer published an obituary detailing his incredible career and impact.

Gene Martinez, JD ’75, at Stanford Law School

Fred Alvarez, BA ’72/JD ’75; Jorge Carrillo, JD ’75; former California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno, JD ’75; and former Judge Ray Santana, BA ’73/MA ’74, wanted to create a lasting tribute to their friend and classmate.

Santana stated, “I was Gene Martinez’s roommate from January 1974 until June 1974. I lived with Gene and my younger brother, Robert Santana. Gene was a vibrant outgoing personality [and his] persona bubbled up with charisma. He was very popular at Stanford.”

Martinez was featured in this pamphlet the Law School sent out on Chicano admissions. Martinez is the man second from the left, while classmate Carrillo is on the far right. Carrillo shared, “Gene was special because he had a rare magnetic personality and was a natural leader. People were instantly drawn to him due to his zeal to live life at its fullest and to include you as part of his family. He was most proud of organizing the musical band, La Rondalla, to give us a reprieve from the rigors of studies, to share his passion for Latino music with the community and to promote a sense of belonging at Stanford.”

Martinez loved playing the guitar with La Rondalla de Stanford and performed with fellow law students Carrillo, Alvarez, and Moreno at campus events.

Carrillo added, “During his youth, Gene and his family supported striking farm workers by picketing at grocery stores and driving to Delano to provide provisions. Gene’s first job out of law school was to provide legal services for farmworkers in the San Joaquin Valley. This endowment establishes a summer fellowship for Stanford Law Students who wish to follow in Gene’s footsteps of providing legal services for farm workers, a fitting way to honor Gene’s memory and commitment to farmworkers.”

Justice Moreno observed, “Gene was beyond larger than life, always up for an adventure and pushing us to our limit, like it or not! I will always be grateful for that. Not only the prime instigator of our La Rondalla conjunto and diversifying our repertoire, but leading our intramural sports teams to intermittent victories and inspiring our SALSA group to provide basic legal services to the East Palo Alto and Mountain View communities. Truly one of a kind even at that young age. The die had been cast.”

L: Gene Martinez, JD ’75; Fred Alvarez, JD ’75; and Jorge Carrillo, JD ’75 performed at Stanford Law School as part of La Rondalla de Stanford.

Upon graduating from Stanford Law School, Martinez began his career representing low-income clients at California Rural Legal Assistance in Madera, California. He then became a prosecutor in Monterey County for many years before opening his own criminal defense practice.

Alvarez noted, “Gene was always about community — whether it was the community of Latino law students who found themselves at a very strange place called Stanford Law School and would be brought together through the music and songs that Gene taught us, or his beloved community of Salinas, where he devoted his talents and career to serving it. He found that one thing that made us feel like we belonged there, and no doubt did that for many, many people whose lives he touched as a lawyer.”

Students interested in applying for the fellowship can indicate their interest on the summer funding application form.

SLS Students Partner with Human Rights NGOs on the Border

The week of January 2-6, 2023, seven SLS students traveled to Tijuana, Mexico, to restart the human rights work SLS students have undertaken for several years at the U.S.-Mexico border, but which was put on pause during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Levin Center funded and provided logistical support for the trip. The students were led by Julia Neusner, JD ‘20, a human rights attorney and researcher, who led much of SLS students’ work at the border when she was an SLS student. For two years post-graduation, Julia was Human Rights First’s primary researcher along the U.S.-Mexico border: her reports played a huge role in media coverage of the human rights abuses carried out under the policies Remain in Mexico and Title 42.

On the ground, the SLS students – David Cremins, JD ’24; Seam Guerin, JD ’23; Tessa Silverman, JD ’24; Vanessa Rae Young Viniegra, JD ’23; Nathan Tauger, JD ’23; Charlotte Finegold, JD ’24; and Alejandra Maria Soler Rangel, LLM ’23, – worked alongside the U.S. Committee on Refugees & Immigrants (USCRI). USCRI’s Tijuana office provides local migrants with critical, extensive legal and social services, ranging from helping migrants apply for asylum in Mexico to crossing into the U.S. While in Tijuana, the SLS students got to observe know-your-rights trainings given by USCRI staff at migrant shelters in Tijuana and assist with intakes for clients seeking asylum in Mexico. The SLS team also ran several capacity-building discussions for USCRI staff on topics in U.S. immigration law and policy they often encounter in their work. USCRI also organized meetings with staff at Universidad Iberoamericana, who discussed clinical programs they run for students in Law, Public Health, and other faculties.

Additionally, SLS students undertook human rights research in partnership with Neusner, USCRI’s Advocacy & Policy team and the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). SLS students will help write a short report focusing on the impact of climate change and environmental hazards on the migration journeys of individuals at the U.S.-Mexico border, and on border militarization and other uses of force migrants are facing on their way from their home country to the border. U.S.-based NGOs such as USCRI and IRAP have long been looking for more sources of data on these topics. The SLS team conducted over forty interviews with migrants in shelters throughout the city, whose anonymized experiences will be shared in the factsheet.

Silverman reflected, “I thought that I had a decent grasp of asylum law after participating in the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, but this trip to Tijuana allowed me to understand the chaos and cruelty of the U.S. immigration system at a level not otherwise possible. It was so valuable to step back from the doctrine and focus instead on the daily realities of the thousands of people trapped at our southern border.”

Tauger said, “This was an eye-opening trip that cemented my interest in immigration law and public interest practice.”

Soler added, “Being able to contribute to NGOs’ work by taking immigrant testimonies on the challenges they face, the reasons for leaving their homes (from violence to environmental displacement), and how current immigration policies impact their chances of requesting asylum was very enriching and fulfilling. I am thankful that the Levin Center offers these opportunities for pro bono research and work for SLS students.”

About Create Change

L: Mike Winn, Melanie Stone, Anna Wang, Diane Chin, Shafaq Khan, and Titi Liu
Image by Christine Baker

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, International Public Interest Initiatives: Titi Liu
Director, Pro Bono and Externship Programs: Mike Winn
Assistant Director, Public Interest Career Development Program: Shafaq Khan
Program Manager: Melanie Stone
Research Assistant: Noelle Andrew, BA ’24

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