Third-year Rutgers Law School student Joanna Gardner has been awarded a Skadden Fellowship to pursue the practice of public interest law on a full-time basis after graduation. The highly competitive Skadden Foundation postgraduate fellowships provide two years of full-time funding to graduating students who wish to pursue projects at public interest organizations that will improve legal services for the poor.
“I applaud Joanna for her dedication to social justice, and I applaud the Skadden Fellowship program for its good judgment in recognizing her and supporting her work,” said Rutgers Law Co-Dean Michael T. Cahill. “I am proud and delighted both that Joanna has earned this fellowship and that it will build on support she has already received at Rutgers from other generously funded programs promoting work in the public interest."
As a Skadden fellow, Gardner will work at HIAS Pennsylvania with a focus on direct representation and community outreach on behalf of immigrant victims of severe domestic violence. Her work will include helping clients to secure humanitarian immigration relief as survivors of trafficking and access benefits that will empower them to live independently.
Gardner previously held a summer internship with HIAS Pennsylvania providing refugee resettlement and immigration legal services.
"From the moment I interned there during my 1L summer, working for HIAS became my dream job," said Gardner. "The people who work there are passionate and the clients I served inspired me with their courage and resilience. I’m so grateful that Skadden is giving me the opportunity to work with HIAS again and has made this commitment to serving vulnerable immigrants and refugees."
"We are thrilled to welcome Joanna back and honored to be a recipient of a Skadden Fellow. Joanna was an important part of our summer intern program, proving herself to be intelligent, inquisitive, compassionate and a wonderful colleague," said HIAS Pennsylvania Executive Director Cathryn Miller-Wilson. "Her project is incredibly important ... Skadden's support will have long-lasting impacts for the immigrant community that we serve."
In addition to her work as a student intern with HIAS, Gardner earned an externship placement with Judge Felipe Restrepo in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals as a second-year student and assisted low-wage immigrant workers on a range of employment matters through a summer position with Justice at Work (formerly Friends of Farmworkers). In the spring of her 2L year, she interned with the Camden-based nonprofit, The Camden Center for Law and Social Justice, working with low-income immigrants and survivors of domestic violence. Gardner’s summer placements were supported by Rutgers Law's Maida Public Interest Fellowships Program.
Throughout her time at Rutgers Law, Gardner has taken advantage of many opportunities to work in the public interest locally and abroad, including trips to Guatemala, as part of Professor Joanne Gottesman’s child migration seminar, and to Jordan, as part of Professor Sahar Aziz’s human rights seminar.
“From day one at Rutgers, Joanna has been an incredibly committed advocate for her clients, and for the issues that she cares about,” said Professor Katie Eyer, a former Skadden Fellow and mentor of Gardner’s. “She is passionate and determined, and I have no doubt that she will do amazing work with the support of a Skadden Fellowship. She and her other classmates in the Social Justice Scholars program are an extraordinary group of students—they should give us all hope for a better future.”
As a member of the inaugural Social Justice Scholar class and a Rutgers Immigrant Justice Fellow, Gardner has organized and participated in many community outreach events and pro bono opportunities related to immigration law, including a panel discussion about the travel ban and free immigration screenings in local communities throughout South Jersey. According to Jill Friedman, Associate Dean for Pro Bono and Public Interest, the goal of the Social Justice Scholars Program is “to cultivate students who will become career public interest lawyers and change-makers. We are delighted the Skadden Foundation recognizes that Joanna is exceptional, but also that she represents a large cohort of Rutgers students who will drive relentlessly for more justice under law."
Gardner was recognized for her contributions to advance the communities of southern New Jersey and the region by Rutgers University–Camden Chancellor Phoebe Haddon with a 2018 Student Civic Engagement Award and by the Association of the Federal Bar of New Jersey with a John J. Barry Memorial Scholarship. She also serves on the Rutgers Law Review and won “Best Brief” at the 2017-2018 Honorable James Hunter III Moot Court appellate advocacy competition.
The Skadden Fellowship Foundation launched in 1988 to commemorate Skadden's 40th anniversary and has since become the largest public interest law firm in the United States, funding 28 new fellows each year. Joanna is the sixth Rutgers Law student or graduate to be awarded a Skadden Fellowship.
Rutgers Law’s longstanding commitment to providing students with meaningful pro bono opportunities includes supporting students as they launch careers in the public interest. In addition to helping students apply for opportunities like the Skadden Fellowship, Rutgers Law also offers its own public interest fellowships and funding opportunities. The Social Justice Scholars program provides scholarships, faculty mentors, summer stipends, public interest workshops, and dedicated pro bono opportunities for approximately 10 students in each class at the Law School’s Camden location.