Public Interest Resource Center Holds 31st Annual Public Interest Student Awards Ceremony


On March 28, the Public Interest Resource Center (PIRC) at Fordham Law held its 31st Annual Public Interest Student Awards Ceremony, recognizing and celebrating student contribution to public interest work. The event was presented in person at Fordham Law and was also broadcast virtually for students’ families and friends. 

Dean Matthew Diller and Leah Horowitz ’06, assistant dean for public interest and social justice initiatives, provided opening remarks to kick off the event. 

“To our graduating students, we are so proud of you, and we will miss you,” said Horowitz. “You are exceptional public interest leaders in the ongoing battle for the ever vague but always important notion of justice. We can’t wait to see all of the wonderful work that you continue to do.” 

(L-R): Dean Matthew Diller, Georgia Decker ’22, and Leah Horowitz ’06, assistant dean for public interest and social justice initiatives

“Unquestionably Woven Together” 

The first award of the night was presented to Georgia Decker ’22, who received the Class of 2022 Public Interest Valedictorian Award. Decker is a Stein Scholar, co-chair of both the Fordham National Lawyers Guild and Workers’ Rights Advocates, and was an intern at the Bronx Defenders and Fordham Law’s Federal Litigation clinic, among other accomplishments.

“One of the most impressive aspects of Fordham Law is the broader public interest community and the ability to learn from so many of my friends and colleagues who are interested in incredibly varied issues impacting society today—[including]ones that may initially seem disparate upon first glance, but are unquestionably woven together,” said Decker in her acceptance speech. She also noted that informal conversations among friends were among her impactful experiences at Fordham Law.

“I cherish the collaborative and creative conversations [I had] about what a more just future might look like,” Decker said. “Those same conversations have formed the foundation of how I conceptualize public interest lawyering.”

(L-R): Dean Matthew Diller, Sarah S. Seo ’23, and Leah Horowitz ’06, assistant dean for public interest and social justice initiatives

The 1L and 2L Public Interest Student of the Year awards were presented to Maritza Medina Olazarán ’24 and Sarah S. Seo ’23, respectively. 

Seo previously worked for Teach for America and then as a kindergarten teacher in Louisiana for four years before clerking at the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights, where she assisted detained children. Now at Fordham Law, Seo is a Stein Scholar and the director of the Suspension Representation Project.

Olazarán, a first-generation college student, is also a Stein Scholar and a 1L representative with Fordham Law Defenders. She has a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University and previously worked as a paralegal for the Innocence Project, a nonprofit seeking to exonerate the wrongfully convicted.

Third-Year Students Complete Over 100,000 Hours of Service Work Ahead of Commencement

The next set of awards were presented en masse to students who had met the requirements of each category.

The PIRC Student Leadership Awards were presented to 60 students in this year’s graduating class who served on the boards of directors of one or more student organizations associated with the Public Interest Resource Center. 

Students who successfully completed the requirement of the Stein Scholars Program in Ethics and Public Interest Law were also acknowledged. Aisha Baruni, director of public interest scholars & fellowships and administrator of the Stein Scholars Program named 22 students in the class of 2022 who met the qualifications of the program.

The last awards of the evening—the Archibald R. Murray Public Service Awards—were awarded in recognition of students who had completed more than 100 hours of community service and pro bono work while at Fordham Law. In total, 284 soon-to-be Fordham Law graduates were named Murray Award recipients, with a total of 100,711 hours of pro bono and community service work completed.


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