UCLA School of Law alumna Jasmine (Phillips) Sankofa '15 has been named a recipient of the 2017-2019 Aryeh Neier Fellowship, awarded by Human Rights Watch and the ACLU. Sankofa is the first graduate of UCLA Law to receive the honor.
Fellowship recipients investigate and address human rights violations in the United States in areas including criminal justice, immigration and national security. Fellows are salaried and spend one year at each of the sponsoring organizations.
Sankofa is a graduate of the Critical Race Studies (CRS) program and the David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy (PILP) at UCLA Law. While at UCLA Law she co-chaired the International Human Rights Law Association, the Reentry Legal Clinic, and the Education Rights Clinic, and earned numerous fellowships and awards. She is also an alumna of the Law Fellows Program at UCLA Law. Currently a law clerk for the Hon. Ronald L. Ellis of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, she has previously served numerous organizations promoting sexual and reproductive rights, disability rights, and reform in prisons and youth detention centers.
“UCLA Law is where I became intentional about my interest in domestic and international human rights,” Sankofa said. “Professors affirmed that my work around the U.S. criminal legal system was indeed human rights work, and encouraged me to pursue opportunities abroad. As someone who had never traveled abroad, I needed the push and support – and I got it. From that point on, I've been adamant about applying a human rights lens to domestic abuses. I was able to do just that as a student in the International Human Rights Clinic. I left UCLA on solid ground—aware of what I want to do, why I want to do it, and whom I do it with and for.”
Human Rights Watch and the ACLU created the fellowship in 2002 to honor the legacy of Aryeh Neier, former president of the Open Society Institute and former director of both the ACLU and Human Rights Watch. Previous Neier fellows have advocated for reform on issues ranging from government surveillance programs to solitary confinement of youth.
“UCLA Law has a long and strong tradition of developing leaders in public interest law,” said Professor Tendayi Achiume, who works with both the Critical Race Studies and Public Interest Law programs. "Like many of our CRS and PILP alumnae, Jasmine is using her law degree to empower marginalized communities and voices at a time when this work is especially vital. As a law student her commitment and passion for human rights were remarkable, and although she is our first alumna to receive this award, she joins many other UCLA Law graduates whose work is devoted to improving the lives of people globally."