Bernstein Institute for Human Rights

Masiyiwa-Bernstein Fellowship Program

 

With a commitment to support the next generation of human rights lawyers, the Masiyiwa-Bernstein Fellowship provides three exceptional NYU Law graduates with an opportunity to spend one year working with an innovative human rights organization. The fellows are placed in partner organizations that engage in: (1) legal empowerment / community-driven justice; (2) protecting the rule of law and defending dissent; and (3) NYU institutes and centers that promote human rights.

Fellows are paid a competitive salary with benefits. The Bernstein Institute supports fellows throughout the year with fellow-centered events, mentoring and consultations with staff, and inclusion in a supportive community of human rights advocates.

Our 2018 fellows are working with Human Rights First, Make the Road NY, and NYU Law's Global Justice Clinic.  Our 2019 fellows will have the opportunity to work with Namati, the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.

2018-2019 Fellows

 

Alyssa Isidoridy Headshot

Alyssa Isidoridy, NYU '18

Alyssa Isidoridy is a Masiyiwa-Bernstein Fellow in the Refugee Advocacy Unit at Human Rights First, an independent advocacy and action organization that challenges America to live up to its ideals. During her time at NYU Law, she participated in clinics with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, the Legal Aid Society Immigration Law Unit, and the Brennan Center for Justice. She also served on the boards of the Public Interest Law Student Association and SAFER (Student Advocates for Empowerment through Harm Reduction), advocated on behalf of a client and his family through the International Refugee Assistance Project, and worked as a research assistant in immigration law to Professor Adam Cox. She spent her summers first as an International Law and Human Rights Fellow at the Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and her second as an intern with the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition based in Washington, DC, where she successfully prepared and argued an asylum case for a detained individual. For her last semester of law school, Alyssa returned to Buenos Aires to participate in the Clinic on Policy Advocacy in Latin America, where she researched and wrote an amicus curiae brief on the human rights implications of the militarization of the drug war in Mexico for a case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
 
Prior to law school, Alyssa worked as an Americorps VISTA member at Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A and a grants writer for the Tahirih Justice Center, an organization helping women and girls fleeing gender-based violence based in Falls Church, Virginia. She holds a JD from NYU School of Law, and a BA from the University of Virginia.

 

Headshot Rachel Levenson

Rachel Levenson, NYU '18

Rachel Levenson is a Masiyiwa-Bernstein Fellow at Make the Road New York, an organization that builds the power of immigrant and working class communities to achieve dignity and justice. In law school, Rachel spent two years as a student advocate in the Immigrant Rights Clinic where she worked to fight the deportations of New Yorkers and to advocate for the due process rights of immigrants. As part of this work, Rachel helped author an amicus brief for the Supreme Court case Jennings v. Rodriguez, created the website prolongeddetentionstories.org, and wrote a petition for review in the Second Circuit. Outside of clinic, Rachel served as co-chair of the Public Interest Law Students Association (PILSA), Articles Selection Editor for the Review of Law & Social Change, and board member of the Suspension Representation Project (SRP). She developed trial advocacy skills through clerkships with Mecklenburg County Public Defender's Office and the Brooklyn Defender Services' Family Defense Practice, and also spent a summer working on the US-Mexico border at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid. 

Prior to law school, Rachel spent five years as the Community Outreach Liaison at the Rhode Island Public Defender where she co-led a successful campaign to pass statewide Ban the Box legislation to protect the employment rights of people with criminal records and helped win a campaign to create a public defender position in Providence Municipal Court in order to protect the rights of homeless individuals facing incarceration for violations of city ordinances. Rachel holds a JD from NYU School of Law where she graduated magna cum laude, Order of the Coif and was awarded the Christian Jarecki '98 prize for her clinical work. She graduated with honors from Brown University.  

 

Headshot Katie Wightman

Katie Wightman, NYU LLM '18

Katie Wightman is a Masiyiwa-Bernstein fellow at the Global Justice Clinic at NYU School of Law, a Clinic that engages in work to prevent, challenge, and redress rights violations in situations of global inequality.
 
During law school, Katie interned at Immigration Equality - the leading LGBTQ immigrant rights organization in the United States - where she provided legal assistance to asylees who have been persecuted on account of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV-positive status. In addition, as a researcher for the Radical Listening Project, Katie explored how the Listening Guide Method to psychological and cultural inquiry can be utilized in human rights advocacy.
 
Prior to her LL.M. at NYU, Katie was a senior child protection lawyer for the Australian government at a national inquiry established to investigate institutional responses to child sexual abuse. Alongside this role, Katie served as Co-founding CEO of the John Mac Foundation, an organisation seeking to champion refugee access to education in Australia. Katie has a long-standing commitment to human rights, having volunteered in the Office of the Secretary General of Amnesty International in London, and interned at the Australian Human Rights Commission in Sydney.
 
She holds a LL.B. and BA in Political Science and International Relations from the University of Western Australia.

2017-2018 Fellows

 

Headshot Adam Gordon

Adam Gordon, NYU '17

Adam Gordon is a Masiyiwa-Bernstein fellow at the U.S.-Asia Law Institute at NYU School of Law, one of America’s preeminent research centers to promote the rule of law and human rights in Asia. Before beginning his fellowship, Adam worked as a policy officer for the UN Security Council Campaign division of Global Affairs Canada. While in law school Adam was a case manager for the International Refugee Assistance Project, and was a member of NYU’s team for the ICRC’s Pictet Competition on International Humanitarian Law, a team that competed in the final rounds. Adam also worked at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission in Kabul and serves as the treasurer of Afhgans4Tomorrow, a humanitarian organization dedicated to the development and capacity building of Afghanistan.

Read Adam's blog post.

 

Headshot Astha Pokharel

Astha Pokharel, NYU '17

Astha Pokharel is a Masiyiwa-Bernstein Fellow at Namati, an organization dedicated to building an evidence-based movement for legal empowerment through grassroots innovation, research and advocacy. Astha works with Namati's Global Programs team to provide research and program support to Namati's offices around the world.  During law school, Astha was a Root-Tilden-Kern scholar and a student advocate in the Global Justice Clinic where she worked with mining-affected communities in Ghana to hold government and corporate actors accountable for the impacts of mining. Astha was also a student advocate in the Immigrant Rights Clinic representing individuals in deportation proceedings, and interned at the Center for Constitutional Rights and the International Trade Union Confederation. Prior to law school, Astha worked in Kathmandu, Nepal at the Forum for Women, Law and Development, a legal aid and advocacy organization.
Astha holds a JD from NYU School of Law, and a BA from Durham University.
 

 

2016-2017 Fellows

 

Headshot Erika Asgeirsson

Erika Asgeirsson, NYU '16

Erika Asgeirsson was the 2016 – 2017 Masiyiwa-Bernstein Fellow at Human Rights First, an  independent advocacy and action organization that challenges America to live up to its ideals. During her fellowship Erika worked with the Countering Antisemitism and Extremism team at Human Rights First, and conducted legal research and contributed to the team’s advocacy efforts to encourage the U.S. take leadership on combating antisemitism and extremism along with European allies.

Erika graduated from NYU School of Law in May 2016. During her first summer, Erika worked with Defence for Children International in Sierra Leone. She then worked with the Center for Reproductive Rights in the US Legal Program. During law school, she participated in the NYU Global Justice Clinic and conducted legal research for MADRE and the Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center. She also served as a Senior Articles Editor of the N.Y.U. Review of Law and Social Change and worked as a research assistant for the American Journal of International Law.

Erika holds a JD from NYU School of Law and a BA in History from the George Washington University. Before law school, she was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Burkina Faso, where she worked with a rural health clinic doing health education and outreach. 

Read Erika's blog posts.

 

Headshot Jay Shooster

Jay Shooster, NYU '16

Jay Shooster was the 2016-2017 Masiyiwa-Bernstein Fellow at Just Security, an online forum on law, rights, and U.S. national security. During his fellowship, Jay provided editorial feedback on articles, curated the content of the website, and produced original content for Just Security, including articles on the controversial Muslim ban.

During law school, Jay served as a clinical student on the policing policy team of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. He also interned in the National Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, and in the Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit of U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York. Additionally, he worked as a research assistant in human rights law to Professor Philip Alston, and served as the co-chair of the NYU Student Animal Legal Defense Fund. 

Jay holds a JD from NYU School of Law, and a BA cum laude from the University of Florida.

Read Jay's blog posts.

 

Headshot Alexandra Zetes

Alexandra Zetes, NYU '16

Alexandra Zetes is the 2016-2017 Masiyiwa-Bernstein Fellow with the Global Justice Clinic at New York University School of Law, a Clinic that engages in work to prevent, challenge, and redress rights violations in situations of global inequality. Alexandra worked as a staff attorney/research fellow with the Clinic, working both directly with the clinic projects and engaging in broader project development and management. Her projects included a case before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights representing a victim of the U.S. CIA rendition program, development and management of a world-wide study on mental health and well-being of human rights advocates, and a partnership with an indigenous community in Guyana to assist with advocacy relating to community-based monitoring data that the community has been collecting for over four years.

During her time in law school, Alex was the NYU Law Chapter Chair of the International Refugee Assistance Project, as well as co-chair for the Courtroom Advocate’s Project. She spent her summers working on international human rights issues, first at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Ankara, Turkey, and then with the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights in Washington DC. Alex also engaged in international human rights research as a student in the Global Justice Clinic and with the Clinic on Policy Advocacy in Latin America in Buenos Aires.

Alex holds a JD from NYU School of Law, and a dual BA in Political Science and Psychology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she graduated magna cum laude in 2010. 

Read Alex's blog posts.

2015-2016 Fellows

 

Headshot Katherine Erickson

Katherine Erickson, NYU '15

Katherine Erickson was a 2015-2016 Masiyiwa-Bernstein fellow at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. During her fellowship she conducted research and advocacy to create the tools needed to avert future genocides. She worked with the Center for the Prevention of Genocide on their Early Warning Project and conducted research for their other program areas.  Read Katherine's reflection.

During law school, Katherine served as Co-Chair of the National Lawyers Guild and Vice Chair of Law Students for Human Rights. For her first summer she worked with Transgender Legal Defense and Education fund in New York on cutting edge gender justice litigation. The following year she worked at the Center for Constitutional Rights on the Guantanamo docket. During her last semester of law school, she participated in NYU Law Abroad in Argentina where she conducted research for the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention through the Clinic on Policy Advocacy in Latin America. She has also conducted legal research for the Brennan Center, MADRE, and the Haiti project of the NYU Global Justice Clinic. 

Katherine holds a JD from NYU School of Law, and a BA in French from Scripps College. She is currently working as Staff Attorney at New York Legal Assistance Group in the Tenants' Rights Unit.

 

Headshot Sharon Samuel
Sharon Samuel, NYU '15

Sharon Samuel was the 2015-2016 Masiyiwa-Bernstein Fellow at Human Rights First. She worked as part of the Anti-Trafficking Team at Human Rights First, advancing the team's advocacy efforts by conducting legal research and policy analysis on issues surrounding both sex and labor trafficking.  Read Sharon's Reflection.

Sharon graduated from NYU School of Law in May 2015. In law school she served as Co-President of the Anti-Trafficking Advocacy Coalition, and worked to raise awareness of the many facets of human trafficking among the NYU community. She also performed fieldwork in Kampala, Uganda, both with International Justice Mission and with the NYU Law Global Justice Clinic. Her work with the clinic also included researching human rights abuses in the Middle East, and reporting on the persecution of human rights defenders in Swaziland and the Central African Republic. During law school, she also had the opportunity to spend a semester at Bucerius Law School in Hamburg, Germany, where she studied international business law.

Sharon holds a JD from NYU School of Law and a BA in English from Barnard College, Columbia University. She is currently a law clerk at the Law Offices of Steven L. Wittels, where she helps to represent plaintiffs in consumer fraud class actions, wage and hour cases, and employment discrimination cases.

 

Headshot Nate Stein
Nate Stein, NYU '15

Nate Stein was a 2015-2016 Masiyiwa-Bernstein fellow at NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, where he oversaw the Center’s multi-stakeholder initiatives, including advancing the Center’s efforts through academic writing, op-eds, and other media.  Read Nate's Reflection.

During law school, Nate was the Student Scholar Co-President at the U.S.-Asia Law Institute where he worked on property rights issues in Cambodia. In the summer of 2013 he worked with the Zhicheng Public Interest Law NGO in Beijing on disability rights issues. He also was a Student Advocate for the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project. At the University of Florida, he was a recipient of a U.S. State Department Critical Language Scholarship, studying in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Nate holds a JD from NYU School of Law, and a BA cum laude from the University of Florida. He is currently working at an Argentinian civil rights organization in their disability rights unit.