The North American South Asian Law Students Association (NASALSA) is an 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to representing the interests of South Asian law students and legal professionals throughout the United States and Canada.
September Student Spotlight:
Meet Renu Urvashi Sagreiya:
Boston College of Law, Class of 2016
Agnes Scott College, Class of 2010, B.A. Sociology and Anthropology, Minor: Spanish
My diverse life experiences will bolster NASALSA’s mission of supporting the commitment of South Asian American legal professionals in the public interest arena. Every generation of immigrants comes to the United States of America in pursuit of the proverbial “American Dream”, and my parents arrived here in February 1987 to enhance their medical training. During my early childhood years, we moved almost yearly to cities across the Eastern Seaboard. We explored everywhere ranging from the charming Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville, NC to the chaotic yet exhilarating Flushing neighborhood in Queens, NY. Nonetheless, we retained our culture wherever we traversed, whether it was celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi or listening attentively to the tales my late Nanaji would tell about living under the British Raj and later serving as a physician to the indigent in the bucolic village of Fatehpur, Rajasthan. Eventually, in August 1996 my family settled in Maple Glen, PA, a Philadelphia suburb as idyllic as its name suggests. My experience as a second-generation Indian American informs my desire to pursue a career in the public interest and fuels my passion for the rights of the marginalized in American society. My parents left India to raise their two children in North American, thousands of miles away from their families and everything they had known. Their myriad hardships and sacrifices have left a lasting impression on me. My parents’ hard work has enabled me to attain a quality education. I am now determined to utilize this education to help other families fully realize the many opportunities available in the United States, regardless of their race, class, gender, sexual orientation, or immigration status.
Furthermore, my past employment and volunteer experience evince a longstanding commitment to public service to culturally, socioeconomically, and linguistically diverse communities. Highly relevant to my future goals was my work before law school with Casa Myrna, greater Boston’s leading domestic violence agency. As an advocate for SafeLink, Massachusetts’ only statewide, 24/7 confidential domestic violence hotline, I provided crisis intervention to hundreds of abuse survivors across the Commonwealth through supportive listening, danger assessments, safety planning, and resource referrals tailored to their unique and complex needs. Challenging, yet personally fulfilling, my position at Casa Myrna enabled me to build key skills that will benefit me greatly in my future career, including teamwork, attention to detail, communicating with victims in a trauma-informed manner, and staying calm and professional in the midst of crises
My experience with Casa Myrna inspired me to intern in summer 2012 for Saheli, a Boston-area South Asian women’s organization. While society is quick to peg South Asian Americans with the sweeping “model minority” label, the numerous domestic violence clients served by Saheli (approximately 150 per year and growing) acutely show the great adversity and poverty faced by many members of our own community from behind closed doors. At Saheli, I researched, designed, and published a comprehensive, culturally competent legal resource guide for South Asian survivors of domestic violence and their advocates through a project funded by a generous grant provided by the Northwest Suburban Health Alliance/Community Health Network Area-15.
In May 2013, the South Asian Bar Association of Greater Boston awarded me their Legal Intern Fellowship to work at HIAS Pennsylvania. At HIAS, I worked in the Victims of Violence Unit, where I assisted domestic abuse and sexual assault survivors in applying for humanitarian immigration benefits. My experience with HIAS opened my eyes to how much the horrors of domestic violence are compounded for immigrants, particularly those from the Indian subcontinent. Such survivors face special challenges like social isolation, cultural values regarding “privacy” and the sanctity of the family, language barriers, fear of authorities, and limited information about their legal rights. Over the course of the summer, I improved my legal research, reasoning, and writing skills through crafting objective memoranda assessing the immigration consequences of my clients’ criminal histories. Furthermore, I especially honed my communication skills over the course of the summer by conducting in-depth interviews of clients with the some of the most traumatic personal histories imaginable, and using this information to draft affidavits in support of their applications for immigration benefits.
For summer 2014, I secured an uncompensated public interest internship with one of Philadelphia’s leading legal aid agencies, Philadelphia Legal Assistance (PLA). The South Asian Bar Association of North American generously funded this experience through it’s inaugural Public Interest Fellowship. PLA is an organization dedicated to providing high-quality representation to low-income residents in Philadelphia. I worked in PLA’s Custody and Support Assistance Clinic, which is part of PLA’s Family Law Unit. Last summer I continued gaining practical legal skills while contributing to the empowerment and self-sufficiency of indigent clients as a South Asian Bar Association of North America Public Interest Fellow at Philadelphia Legal Assistance. There, I assisted pro se litigants in navigating the complexities of initiating divorce, child custody, child support, spousal support, and protection from abuse proceedings. In addition to counseling over 60 self-represented parties, as a Certified Legal Intern under Pennsylvania law, I appeared, under the supervision of a licensed lawyer, as a student attorney in Family Court on behalf of a client. I gained valuable litigation skills and appreciated the experience of assisting a client with their case from inception to closure. This endeavor as a whole taught me valuable skills like remaining calm under pressure, being attentive to detail, managing large caseloads, and communicating effectively with clientele of diverse backgrounds in a trauma-informed manner. My clients’ stories of hardship and hope has deepened my determination to provide culturally sensitive, linguistically competent representation to victims of gender violence in my own community. In sum, my extensive client counseling experience and strong work ethic, along with my multilingual proficiencies and commitment to nonjudgmental, culturally-competent service delivery would enable me to make a substantial contribution to the South Asian community as a legal professional. I truly admire the work of NASALSA and welcome the opportunity to assist in their mission of reducing barriers to a more just society.
2015 NASALSA Conference
We are pleased to announce that our 17th Annual Conference will be held on February 20-21st, 2015 in the San Francisco Bay Area at Stanford Law School. Please check back here or on our Facebook page for updates. If you would like to join our mailing list for updates, please sign up for individual membership in our membership tab.