Celebrating the Fourth Douglass Fellows Class with a Virtual Finale

Last month, the 2020-21 Douglass Fellows class gathered with alumni, mentors, and HTI staff for a virtual finale event to welcome Samantha Franks, Alicen Rodolph, Johanna Lee, and Mirelle Raza to the network of talented Douglass Fellow alumni. The four third-year law students spent the evening reflecting on the achievements made and relationships formed over the course of the eight-month fellowship. Though COVID-19 necessitated a virtual event to conclude the Fellows’ remote fellowship experience, the sense of community, accomplishment, and excitement in the air was palpable.

All four Fellows demonstrated a spirit of adaptability, eagerness to learn, and passion for using their skills to combat human trafficking, as demonstrated by the main projects they completed in collaboration with HTI staff:

  • Samantha Franks, a student at the University of Michigan Law School, collaborated with Alyssa Currier Wheeler, HTI’s Associate Legal Counsel and Douglass Fellows program director, to write a paper demonstrating how a recommitment to the ideals of the Palermo Protocol can help reduce trafficking worldwide, using Uganda as a case study. (The Fellows’ articles will be shared on Trafficking Matters when published.) She also launched and co-hosted the Trafficking Matters podcast, a platform for meaningful conversations with those working to decimate trafficking, with Alicen Rodolph.
  • Alicen Rodolph, a student at William & Mary Law School, worked with Tyler Dunman, HTI’s Special Counsel in Uganda, on an article providing recommendations for prosecutors on building solid trafficking cases when victim participation is not possible. She launched and co-hosted the Trafficking Matters podcast alongside Franks.
  • Johanna Lee, a student at Harvard Law School, co-wrote an article with Lindsey Roberson, HTI’s Senior Legal Counsel, on how the TVPA can be a useful tool for forced labor cases in which foreign victims and multinational corporations are involved. She also organized and facilitated an expert panel exploring how civil litigation can be used as a tool to hold corporations accountable for forced labor in their multinational supply chains.
  • Mirelle Raza, a student at USC Gould School of Law, partnered with Kyleigh Feehs, HTI’s Associate Legal Counsel, to write an article using HTI’s data dispelling sex trafficking myths about who is recruited by traffickers and how traffickers operate. She is also organizing a virtual symposium on the efficacy of sting operations in anti-trafficking enforcement.

Through these projects and others, including data entry for the upcoming 2020 Federal Human Trafficking Report, writing #InContext articles, and legal research, the Fellows refined critical skills, made valuable connections, and contributed meaningfully to those combating trafficking around the world.

“As a law student searching for opportunities to contribute to anti-trafficking initiatives, learn from experts in the field, and gain mentors who are leaders throughout the trafficking space—I cannot imagine a better opportunity than the Douglass Fellowship. This fellowship has honed my research and writing skills, created lifetime friendships, and increased my understanding of both domestic and international human trafficking, all of which I will take into my career as a new lawyer,” Raza said.

Each Fellow was paired with an expert mentor in the field to offer valuable professional advice and lived experiences as anti-trafficking professionals: 

  • Lori Cohen, Executive Director, ECPAT-USA
  • Alexandra Gelber, Deputy Chief, Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice
  • Meg Roggensack, Adjunct Professor, Georgetown University Law Center
  • Yiota Souras, Senior Vice President & General Counsel, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

This year for the first time ever, Fellows were also paired with alumni mentors, who served as a resource on assignments and helped counsel Fellows on their law school and post-grad goals:

  • Whitney Kramer ’19, Trial Attorney, Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice
  • Emmylou Manwill ’20, DV Advocate, MetroWest Legal Services
  • Ashleigh Pelto ’20, Intern, Domestic Violence Ended (DOVE)
  • Jessica Skocik ’19, Assistant District Attorney, Kings County District Attorney’s Office

These connections are invaluable for young professionals launching their careers. Franks, Rodolph, Lee, and Raza are joining a vibrant network of Douglass Fellow alumni who continue to work for justice as prosecutors, legal aid providers, and in many other roles. 

“We intentionally selected a smaller class this past year with the hopes that each fellow could engage even more deeply with the work of the  Institute. They really functioned as integrated members of the Institute team. I will miss working with them but I’m very excited about where they’re headed after law school,” Currier Wheeler said.

The next class of Fellows will begin in September. As the 2020-21 Fellows move on to the next step in their careers, HTI staff celebrates a fruitful fourth class of Douglass Fellows—one that embodies namesake Frederick Douglass’s commitment to freedom, education, and advocacy.

“Thanks to the Douglass Fellowship, I have connected with dozens of leaders in the anti-trafficking movement whose passion and dedication to securing justice for survivors have been nothing short of inspiring. I now end my time as a Douglass Fellow ever more motivated to tackle the widespread practices of child and forced labor, and am grateful for the Fellowship’s encouragement as I embark on a career in this field,” Lee said.

About the author

Social Media & Digital Marketing Coordinator at | Website

Shannon serves as the Social Media & Digital Marketing Coordinator for the Human Trafficking Institute. A professional storyteller from Springfield, Virginia, Shannon graduated as an Honors Scholar from Liberty University with a major in Strategic Communication, a specialization in Social Media Management, and a minor in Spanish. Before her work with the Institute, Shannon served as the Blog Editor & Curator at the Dressember Foundation, managing a team of writers and editing videos to raise awareness and support fundraising efforts for Dressember’s anti-human trafficking work. She also interned and contributed content for various organizations, including the Liberty University School of Communication & the Arts, Chick-fil-A Franchise, CEA Study Abroad, and Phoenix Bikes.

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Shannon Gage

Shannon serves as the Social Media & Digital Marketing Coordinator for the Human Trafficking Institute. A professional storyteller from Springfield, Virginia, Shannon graduated as an Honors Scholar from Liberty University with a major in Strategic Communication, a specialization in Social Media Management, and a minor in Spanish. Before her work with the Institute, Shannon served as the Blog Editor & Curator at the Dressember Foundation, managing a team of writers and editing videos to raise awareness and support fundraising efforts for Dressember’s anti-human trafficking work. She also interned and contributed content for various organizations, including the Liberty University School of Communication & the Arts, Chick-fil-A Franchise, CEA Study Abroad, and Phoenix Bikes.