April 13, 2012

$2 mil gift will send budding human rights lawyers abroad

A $2 million donation from the Charles and Cerise Jacobs Charitable Foundation will fund a second round of Law School students to pursue an education in human rights through fieldwork with governments and international NGOs.

The fund provides a five to six thousand dollar stipend to Law School students, likely between their first and second years, to work with either a NGO or other type of human rights agency, according to Dean of the Law School Michael Schill.

The donation, made in memory of College and Law School graduate Charles M. Jacobs (A.B. ’53, J.D. ’56) by his widow Cerise Jacobs, established the Charles M. Jacobs fund for Human Rights and Social Engagement.

Before receiving the gift, the number of students whom the Law School could fund for international human rights work was limited, Schill said.

“This allows us to expand [international grants] and make it a permanent program.”

The students must apply for funding and, if chosen, are matched with an organization of their choice or with the connection of Law School faculty who have relationships with NGOs in other countries.

Second-year law student Catherine Matloub used the fund to work in New Delhi with the Lawyers Collective Women’s Rights Initiative.

Without the aid of the Jacobs fellowship, Matloub would not have been able to participate in the program. “The Jacobs fellowship made my goal of working in for an international human rights association not only a possibility, but a reality,” she said.

Second-year law student Jennifer Chemel worked over the summer at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs under former UN ambassador to Israel, Dori Gold. “I feel very fortunate to have received the fellowship,” said Chemel. “Knowing that I have a fellowship for human rights work was empowering.”

Schill feels that these summer experiences will enhance the education of students at the Law School: “It will give them firsthand experiences with respect to the deprivations of human rights as well as the legal solutions to vindicate those rights. I think that it will all feed back into the experience here in classes.”

The gift, which is the Law School’s first for a human rights program, came at an optimal time. “There’s a huge interest among our students in doing human rights work,” Schill said. “We’re hoping to expand the law school’s commitment to human rights, and there’s lots of different ways in which philanthropy can do that.”

According to Associate Dean Michael R. Jones, the fund has also allowed four College students to engage in their own human rights work: fourth-years Jonathan Rodriguez, Libby Bova, Amy Woodruff, and Dami Obaro.

Three of the students worked at Chicago-based South Chicago Art Center, Kovler Center for the Treatment of Survivors of Torture, and the Illinois Commission for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.