The Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice

Partners for change at the intersection of academics and advocacy.

Rapoport Center Announces 2008–2009 Human Rights Scholars

By Kate Hull, Rapoport Center Undergraduate Intern, Fall 2008

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LLILAS-Rapoport Fellow Emily Spangenberg (far left) and Human Rights Scholars (left to right) Bridgett Mayeux, Kelly Stephenson, and Mario Franke.

The Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice at The University of Texas School of Law has named three students as Rapoport Center Human Rights Scholars for the 2008–2009 school year. Second-year law students Mario Franke, Bridgett Mayeux and Kelly Stephenson were selected by a committee of international law faculty on the basis of their academic credentials, leadership skills, and dedication to human rights work. Each of the students will receive a scholarship. In addition, the Teresa Lozano Long Institute for Latin American Studies (LLILAS) has named first year Master's student, Emily Spangenberg, as a LLILAS-Rapoport Fellow, who will work along-side the scholars.

The Human Rights Scholars and the LLILAS-Rapoport Fellow will work closely with faculty and administrators affiliated with the Center to help coordinate many of the Center's current programs, including its educational outreach to local high schools, undergraduate programs, clinical and internship opportunities, annual conference, and a human rights fact-finding mission over spring break to Ecuador. They will also engage in human rights research and advocacy projects.

“Mario, Bridgett, Kelly and Emily are all talented and committed advocates for human rights. I am excited about what they will bring to the Center, particularly with the wide array of interests and experiences they represent,” said Professor Karen Engle, Director of the Center. “We are excited about this collaboration with LLILAS which, for the first time, will give a Master's student the same opportunity as law students to serve in this capacity,” said Government Professor Daniel Brinks, who is the Rapoport Center's new Associate Director for Academics.

Mario Franke earned his B.B.A. and Master in Professional Accounting (M.P.A.) degrees from the University of Texas at Austin in 2004. After graduation, he spent two years working in Public Accounting. He volunteered time to the IRS-coordinated Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) where he was able to support the program by assisting Spanish-speaking clients. This past summer, he clerked at Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid in El Paso, Texas, where he provided legal assistance to low-income Texans along the Mexico-United States border. His primary contributions as a Human Rights Scholar will be to help coordinate the Center's spring break fact-finding mission to Ecuador, to assist the Center with grant research and fundraising efforts, and to help coordinate the Working Group on Human Rights and the Border Wall.

Bridgett Mayeux received her B.A. in Global Studies and Political Science from the University of Minnesota in 2006. She served in the Air National Guard for seven years with distinction, including peacekeeping and NATO operations. After graduating, she spent a year in Alaska working and volunteered time to the Anchorage Literacy Project, teaching English to adult immigrants. This past summer she received a Rapoport Center fellowship to intern with the Legal Research Project and its partner organization based in Kathmandu, Nepal, compiling cases related to human rights atrocities that occurred during Nepal's 10-year civil war. Also, this year she is a volunteer law clerk for the Political Asylum Project of Austin, which provides free and low cost legal services to immigrants and refugees. Some of her contributions as a Human Rights Scholar will be to assist in the planning and coordination of the Center's annual conference entitled “Human Rights at UT: A Dialogue at the Intersection of Academics and Advocacy,” and as a current board member of the Human Rights Law Society, to coordinate events and information on Human Rights opportunities.

Emily Spangenberg received her B.A. from the University of Wisconsin where she majored in journalism, political science and Spanish. She is currently a candidate for a Masters of Arts in Latin American Studies at the University of Texas. While an undergraduate, she conducted independent research focused on human rights in Latin America, specifically in the Southern Cone. She also spent a semester researching and studying political science in Buenos Aires, Argentina. While abroad, she focused on the politics of two amnesty laws that were recently declared unconstitutional and over the next few years, developed her research into her senior thesis that compared the effects of international justice on the initiative for human rights trials in Argentina and Chile. Emily has worked over the past three years as an advocate for various immigrant communities by providing the Hispanic community with greater access to legal information and services through her outreach work at two law firms in Madison, Wisconsin. She also traveled to the U.S.-exico border where she worked with La Unión del Pueblo Entero, a migrant workers' union, in San Juan, Texas. Emily hopes to one-day work as a journalist or researcher at a nongovernmental organization devoted to human rights where she can pursue human rights advocacy through scholarship.

Kelly Stephenson received his B.A. in International Relations from American University. As an undergraduate, he spent a semester in South Africa studying post-conflict development, globalization, and environmental issues. After graduating, he spent two years in The Gambia as a Peace Corps Volunteer where he lived and worked in rural areas promoting sustainable agro-business techniques to women's groups and farmers. Prior to law school, he volunteered his time to support victims of domestic violence and interned with the Dallas County Public Defender's Office. This past summer, he received a Cain fellowship from the Rapoport Center to intern at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania. His primary contributions as a Human Rights Scholar will be to coordinate the Center's educational outreach programs, assist in planning of the Annual Conference, support the Health and Human Right Working Group, and to promote Africa-focused projects.

The Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice at The University of Texas School of Law serves as a focal point for critical discussion and policy analysis of human rights law and advocacy. The Center connects a community of students, practitioners, and academics engaged in the interdisciplinary study and practice of human rights that promotes the economic and political enfranchisement of marginalized individuals and groups both locally and globally.