By: MOLLY WICKER
The Institute’s third class of Douglass Fellows joined staff for two days of hands-on orientation and training in Washington, D.C. in September. This year’s class had the unique opportunity to not only hear from members of the Institute team, but also from experts in the field, who shared how their legal experience shaped their careers and offered them a unique platform to bear witness to justice.
“The in-person orientation sets the framework for the entire Fellowship period,” said Kyleigh Feehs, the Institute’s Associate Legal Counsel and Director of the Douglass Fellows program. “It exposes the Douglass Fellows to the Institute’s work, builds relationships between the Douglass Fellows and the Institute team, and provides the Fellows with an opportunity to meet their mentors in person. This valuable time together provides the framework needed for the Douglass Fellows to connect with the Institute team and each other throughout the rest of the remote Fellowship period.”
During Day 1 of orientation, the Fellows learned about the Institute’s mission to decimate modern slavery in its partner countries, Belize and Uganda. The Institute’s Director of Law Enforcement Operations Dave Rogers, along with Institute attorneys Cherisse Francis and Alyssa Currier, offered the Fellows a comprehensive overview of the anti-trafficking laws in each country, as well as an update on the progress made since the Institute started working in each location. Marie Martinez Israelite, the Institute’s Director of Victim Services, also spent time with the Fellows explaining how a victim-centered approach to trafficking is critical for making strides in the justice sector.
“The Douglass Fellows orientation was an incredible introduction to the work that the Institute and its partners are doing to combat human trafficking in the U.S. and abroad,” said current Fellow Rachel Geissler, a third-year law student at the University of North Carolina. “The Institute has obviously been intentional about building a community of thoughtful, experienced and committed advocates, and I feel honored to have been welcomed into it.”
Following time with the Institute staff, Fellows heard from Rebekah Bailey, a Trial Attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, Criminal Section, who shared what is was like to work through a trafficking case from start to finish.
“Her [Rebekah’s] dedication to seeking justice for the survivor was absolutely inspiring, but also underscored just how tough it is to prosecute labor trafficking, even when there are laws in place to address it,” noted Geissler.
During orientation, the Fellows also met their mentors – all of whom hold senior positions in federal agencies and nongovernmental organizations – who work in the fight against human trafficking. The agencies include Federal Bureau of Investigations, U.S. Department of Justice, McCain Institute, U.S. Department of State, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, International Corporate Accountability Roundtable, and Institute for Business and Human Rights.
In addition to meeting their mentors, this year’s Fellows had the unique opportunity to learn how to glean the most wisdom from the relationship over the course of the year. Whitney Kramer, a 2018-19 Douglass Fellow and an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, shared wisdom and tips from her own Fellows experience and mentor relationship.
“Make the most of this opportunity,” she advised, “because these people are so wise and so willing to help you.”
The Fellows will participate in a number of other projects throughout the year, including writing for the Institute and Trafficking Matters websites, conducting legal research, and hosting advocacy events at their law schools.
In its inaugural year, the Douglass Fellowship accepted the top 10% of applicants. The Fellows study at elite law schools across the country. The Fellowship runs from September through April each year and supports the Institute’s efforts to provide clear, data-driven, thought leadership to scholars and criminal justice practitioners in the fight against human trafficking.
Click here to read more about the Douglass Fellowship program.