I read a lot of essays. It’s a big part of what I do here at Stanford Law School. As the applications come in, some start to stand out. I begin to see unique stories, stories that add up to much more than a list of accomplishments. These aspiring lawyers have done so much though they are still just on the cusp of their lives—lives already lived with passion, energy, resolve, and a desire to do. This reading is a solitary endeavor, but one I love. I feel privileged to read these stories, to hear about these lives—some of them challenging, all inspiring.
The casual passersby will see a growing stack of manila folders on my desk as an application becomes part of a student file and we build the new class. But each folder represents so much more than paper. Sometimes, I learn about a more private side of our students—a part that they might not typically share in everyday conversation—that something that made me and my colleagues on the admissions committee say yes—this one should be a part of the Stanford Law community.
One of those students, 3L Jonathan Margolick, started a student organization two years ago called “First Person.” He wanted to share stories he’d heard about his classmates and faculty. The first of the series kicked off in 2011 with presentations offering insights into a few who shared their lives and passions with us—lives largely hidden behind law journals and reading glasses during the school year.
I’m not sure I can properly articulate what the secret ingredient is to this community. Some have been journalists, musicians, business people, dancers, and entrepreneurs. Others served in AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, and the military. Some founded nonprofits, some are doctors, and others would like to combine law with medicine. And that’s just looking at their CVs. Margolick himself has done a variety of interesting things, including working on political campaigns, rebuilding houses in post-Katrina New Orleans, and teaching Hebrew school. He’s planning to serve as a judge advocate in the U.S. Marine Corps.
“We tend to silo ourselves. But community comes from knowing each other. And it’s hard to know people until you know something about their lives,” Jon says of his motivation for starting the series. Through his efforts, we’re all getting to know more about each other, including the faculty. Perhaps it’s the intimacy of the place that allows this community to flourish. But I feel fortunate to be a part of it. Here are a few short intros to some of the students who shared their stories with us this year.
– by Faye Deal, Associate Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid (Read Faye Deal’s SLS Admissions blog.)
The Send-Out Room
Born in Brooklyn and raised in Queens, Leslie-Bernard Joseph, JD ’15, is a graduate of Princeton University where he received a BA in politics and African-American studies. Prior to law school, he spent three years teaching elementary school in the Bronx through Teach for America before becoming the founding dean of students at Coney Island Prep, a 5-12 public charter school in Brooklyn. In his presentation he shared stories of his classroom days, his attempts to inspire students, and the experience of being humbled by the families he served. His interests include motorcycling, sneakers, good clothes, digital photography, and basketball. He is a 2013 Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow for New Americans.
Ana Cristina Nuñez
Lawyering for the “No. 1 Enemy of the Bolivarian Revolution”
Before coming to SLS, Ana Cristina Nuñez, JSM ’12, JSD ’15, was general counsel for GLOBOVISION, the last independent news outlet in Venezuela under the Chávez administration. In her presentation she discussed her experiences heading the team that designed and executed the legal strategy that kept the news channel on the air. GLOBOVISION was subjected to a ferocious state-sponsored campaign of aggressions and intimidation, which included being labeled “enemy No. 1 of the Revolution” by the Venezuelan authorities, as well as having its CEO arrested and its journalists and workers physically attacked, harassed, and criminally prosecuted. A lawyer trained in both France and Venezuela, she was lecturing on constitutional law in Venezuela before heading the legal team of GLOBOVISION.
Building Bridges with Film
Cary McClelland, JD ’15, is an artist and human rights advocate. He has trained former child soldiers to be television journalists in the Eastern Congo, directed conflict transformation programs in liberated Timor-Leste, and worked alongside opposition activists in Zimbabwe. Recently, he worked with Google and WITNESS to launch YouTube’s Human Rights Channel, dedicated to giving voice to citizen journalists around the world. In his presentation he talked about making his feature documentary, WITHOUT SHEPHERDS, which premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival and was released worldwide this year. It is the product of the two years he lived and worked in Pakistan, along- side a team of local filmmakers, chronicling the lives of six people fighting for a better tomorrow.
Where’d it go?: The Story of What Happened to my Leg
Former juvenile delinquent Gavriel Jacobs, JD ’13, joined the U.S. Marine Corps immediately after graduating from high school so that he could make a difference in the world, drink, and look good in uniform. In his presentation he talked about his service as both driver and gunner on the M1A1 main battle tank. He was stationed in 29 Palms, California, and served two tours in Iraq. On the second tour, he was wounded in an IED ambush and spent a significant amount of time in physical rehabilitation before returning home and beginning undergraduate studies at the University of Washington. He is currently a 3L here at Stanford, where he has earned middling grades but nonetheless ridden the Stanford name to gainful employment. He has also learned to play the ukulele.
Because God Willed It: Surviving Peace Corps Morocco
In his presentation Mark Feldman, JD ’14, talked about serving two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in a Berber village in Morocco. While living it up in the High Atlas Mountains, he became fluent in Tamazight, confirmed that 140 degrees is, in fact, too hot, played Berber folk songs on stage in front of 10,000 people, and learned to entertain himself alone in his gigantic house for months on end, at least until the roof collapsed in his bedroom during a snow storm. In a prior life, he studied comparative literature at the University of Michigan, worked at a microfinance institution through AmeriCorps VISTA, and volunteered with community development NGOs in Bolivia, Costa Rica, and Chile. In his spare time he enjoys playing music, baking, and hiking.
Reflecting on Life: A Mother/Daughter Journey
Briane Cornish-Knight, JD ’14, graduated from Tufts University with a BA in English literature and philosophy. Post-college, Briane spent a year coordinating a racial justice program for youth of color and Boston police officers through an AmeriCorps program called the Massachusetts Promise Fellowship. Although she experienced many profound moments during AmeriCorps, her talk centered on her journey from San Jose, California, to Brooklyn, New York, and the challenges of growing up in a single-parent household where resources were limited. Rather than focusing on her accomplishments, she chose to share with her classmates a more personal story.