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September 21, 2004

Press Contacts: Kirston Fortune, UT Law Communications, (512) 471.7330, or, and Professor Karen Engle, UT Law Human Rights Initiative, 512-232-7066, or

UT Law Announces First Human Rights Scholars

Photo of Human Rights Scholars Jeremy Freeman, Ashley Morris, and Paola marusich-Blancarte
Jeremy Freeman, Ashley Morris,
and Paola Marusich-Blancarte

AUSTIN, Texas — Three UT Law students were recognized this week for their dedication to international human rights with the designation “Human Rights Scholars.” Karen Engle, director of the Law School’s new Human Rights Initiative, announced the 2004-05 winners of the $5,000 scholarships: Jeremy Freeman, Paola Marusich-Blancarte, and Ashley Morris, all second-year law students.

As Human Rights Scholars, the three will collaborate in the ongoing development of the Human Rights Initiative, a Law School center founded last summer with funding from the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation. In addition to assisting with projects, the students will serve on and coordinate the Initiative’s Student Advisory Board.

“We were thrilled to choose Jeremy, Paola, and Ashley out of a pool of very highly qualified applicants with significant human rights experience,” said Engle. “It is great to see that the University of Texas is attracting top students from around the country to study and work in human rights. Jeremy, Paola, and Ashley each bring different experiences and interests to the Initiative, which will assist us in our mission to promote the economic and political enfranchisement of marginalized individuals and groups both locally and globally.”

“This is the first time that the Human Rights Initiative has given out these scholarships and is an important step by the Law School to support international human rights efforts,” said Dean Bill Powers.

Jeremy Freeman received his A.B. in Hispanic Studies from Brown in 2001. He is pursuing a Master of International Affairs degree at Columbia University concurrently with his studies at UT Law. During a recent internship at the UN, he was involved with the development of early warning and contingency plans for humanitarian emergencies. He is a former research assistant at the Kennedy School of Government’s human rights center, where his research focused chiefly on U.S. foreign policy responses to genocide in the twentieth century. Jeremy interned while still an undergraduate at the NATO desk of the U.S. State Department during the bombing campaign in Serbia, a post that first exposed him to the “difficult ethical and legal questions about human rights.” A fluent Spanish speaker, he also interned at the U.S. Embassy in Santiago, Chile, when their appellate court was wrestling with the decision to strip former dictator Pinochet of immunity from prosecution. As a Human Rights Scholar at UT Law, Jeremy will assist with fundraising and with planning the Human Rights Initiative’s first annual conference in February on immigration and outsourcing.

Paola Marusich-Blancarte received her B.A. in International Relations from Stanford in 1999, and her M.A. in International Policy Studies from Stanford in 2000. She recently completed a summer fellowship at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., where she examined the connection between organized criminal networks and human smuggling on the Southwestern U.S.-Mexico border. She has also worked in Mexico City as a legal aide consultant, promoting reforms to Mexican criminal law impacting street children. Previously, she was a resident fellow at the International Institute for Educational Planning at UNESCO in Paris, France, where her writing centered on education as a critical aspect of poverty alleviation. During her tenure as a Human Rights Scholar, Paola will also assist with the Human Rights Initiative’s first annual conference and will mentor fellow UT Law students interested in pursuing human rights opportunities.

Ashley Morris received her B.A. in Philosophy and Environmental Science from Columbia in 1999. She brings her background in advocacy for non-English-speaking immigrants to bear on her studies at UT Law. This summer she worked in the Immigration Law Unit of the Legal Aid Society in New York, preparing clients and witnesses for hearings before the Immigration Court. Her extensive human rights experience includes work at the Political Asylum Project of Austin and directing an environmental education project in Ecuador for Fundación Galo Plaza Lasso. Ashley has always been “concerned with the human rights of families who have made rational, moral decisions to cross borders.” Ashley’s participation as a Human Rights Scholar will include planning a spring workshop on indigenous rights in the Americas. Ashley will also be coordinating a Student Advisory Committee to the Initiative to bolster the influence of the various domestic and international human rights projects ongoing at UT Law.

Related Links:
Human Rights Initiative:
UT Law Receives $500,000 Grant from Rapoport Foundation to Create Human Rights Initiative, Transnational Worker Rights Clinic:
The Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation:
Professor Karen Engle: