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Three Students Win Prestigious Fellowships

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A third-year UNC School of Law student and two recent alumni have received competitive, salaried post-graduate fellowships that will help them achieve their long-held career aspirations.

Agata Pelka ’13 and Ian Mance ’13 already are making an impact in their posts, focusing respectively on access to abortion care and racial profiling. Natalia Botella 3L will begin her job later this year, advocating for low-income cardiac patients.

Agata Pelka ’13

Agata Pelka

Agata Pelka pursued opportunities at UNC to learn about women’s health advocacy through research, independent study and an externship.

She was selected as a Reproductive Justice Fellow with the National Abortion Federation in Washington. “I felt incredibly lucky to be able to land my dream job right out of law school,” Pelka says.

One of only six recipients of the yearlong fellowship, offered by Law Students for Reproductive Justice, Pelka has been in the position since last August. She works on research, prepares fact sheets, attends coalition meetings and hearings on Capitol Hill, and participates in strategy meetings. Pelka focuses on Medicaid coverage, low-income women’s access to services and parental involvement requirements.

Pelka entered UNC with plans to apply for the fellowship and says she gained excellent experience to prepare for it. She took health law classes with professor Joan Krause, Dan K. Moore Distinguished Professor of Law, and her independent study, advised by Reef C. Ivey II Professor of Law Maxine Eichner, was with NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina. Her externship was with the National Health Law Program in Carrboro, N.C., focused on low-income people’s access to health care.

She plans to continue working in women’s health or economic/employment security policy.

“This is a unique opportunity to dive into policy at this level so early in my career,” Pelka says. “I am interacting with organizations and individuals who are shaping the national policy agenda, which is exhilarating.”

Ian Mance ’13

Ian Mance

As an attorney who investigates racial profiling and other police misconduct issues, Ian Mance is fulfilling both his legal aspiration and a previous career ambition to be a detective.

The Soros Justice Fellow has spent time in targeted neighborhoods in Durham as a police officer might, talking with people affected by racial profiling, for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

Mance is the first UNC School of Law student to receive the 18-month fellowship, funded by George Soros’ Open Society Foundations.

“I consider myself extremely lucky to be in a position where I’m able to do the type of work I aspired to do when I went to law school. How many lawyers can set their own agenda and pursue their primary area of interest without worrying about billable hours or making ends meet?” Mance says.

His background working for the American Civil Liberties Union before law school provided invaluable experience. So did his time at UNC, where he interned at the Center for Civil Rights, worked for the Civil Legal Assistance Clinic, and did an independent study about racial justice issues with UNC School of Law professor emeritus Rich Rosen.  

Mance’s job includes educating Durham’s city and police leaders about racial profiling and related disparities in the criminal justice system. His work with the community group Fostering Alternatives to Drug Enforcement led to ongoing hearings on racial profiling before Durham’s Human Relations Commission.

At the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, Mance works regularly with his good friend and UNC School of Law classmate Jeremy Collins ’13. “I couldn’t ask for a better host organization. I’m surrounded by some of the brightest minds in civil rights advocacy anywhere in the South,” he says.

Natalia Botella 3L

Natalia Botella

Natalia Botella’s path at UNC School of Law has focused on moving to where health care and the law intersect. As an Equal Justice Works Fellow, she will reach her destination.

During the two-year fellowship, Botella will provide legal services to low-income cardiac patients in Charlotte through Legal Services of Southern Piedmont, in partnership with Carolinas HealthCare System. The fellowship is co-sponsored by Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart P.C. and Boston Scientific. 

Botella’s project is a Medical-Legal Partnership, in which lawyers and medical clinicians collaborate on patient referrals and advocacy. She will focus on public benefits, housing, domestic violence, wills, guardianships and advanced directives. She’ll provide legal education and direct representation for patients in issues related to their cardiac health.

“One of the aspects I am most looking forward to is the variety in day-to-day activities. While advocating for my clients is at the core of the project, to do so I will work with hospital staff, creating educational materials and recruiting pro bono partners. My work will take me out in the community, everywhere from the hospital to the courthouse,” says Botella, a Chancellor’s Scholar at UNC.

Botella says her UNC experience has prepared her well with health law courses, internships, an externship with BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina and pro bono projects, including the Cancer Pro Bono Legal Project.

“Not only did I get to design my dream job tailored to my strengths, but I also believe in the work I will be doing and am confident that this project can make a difference for North Carolina cardiac patients during a very difficult time in their lives,” Botella says.

-February 14, 2014

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