Seven New Fellows Will Work in Human Rights

A group of head-and-shoulders portraits, arranged in two rows on a blue background
Recipients of 2022-23 Bernstein and Robina International Human Rights Fellowships, clockwise from top left: Kyra Blas ’23, Simon Engler ’23, Raaya Gomez ’22, Dianne Lake ’21, Milagros Mutsios ’22 LLM, Porter Nenon ’23, and Carolyn O’Connor ’19.

The Orville H. Schell Jr. Center for International Human Rights has announced that seven Yale Law students and recent graduates will receive Robert L. Bernstein Fellowships in International Human Rights and Robina International Human Rights Fellowships for the 2023–24 academic year. The Bernstein Fellowship supports a year of full-time work in human rights advocacy. The Robina also funds full-time human rights work, particularly at international or foreign courts and tribunals and intergovernmental human rights agencies. 

Kyra Blas ’23 will spend her Bernstein Fellowship year working with Water Protector Legal Collective to document the U.S. military’s adverse impacts on waters and surrounding communities throughout Turtle Island, Hawai'i, and the colonies and to aid coalition-building. Blas is a Chamoru woman born and raised in Guåhan, Guam. She will be based in Guåhan for her Bernstein Fellowship and is excited to return home and serve her island and its people, lands, waters, and non-human beings.

While at Yale Law School, Blas selected courses and other work she believed would best prepare her to support existing movements, organizers, legislators, and community members tackling the multifaceted issues her island faces. Through the Environmental Protection Clinic, Blas worked on environmental litigation brought on behalf of tribes and with a grassroots environmental justice organization on their community-led solar project. She worked on Vanuatu’s International Court of Justice campaign and domestic civil rights litigation through my internships at Blue Ocean Law and the Washington State Attorney General’s Office. She also aided veterans with their applications for increased compensation for their service-connected conditions or disabilities with Connecticut Veterans Legal Services through Yale Law School’s Medical-Legal Partnership. Through the Community and Economic Development Clinic, she helped community-based nonprofits dedicated to economic, food, and health justice.

In addition to her clinical work at the Law School, Blas participated in the Tribal Resources and Sovereignty Clinic at the Yale School of the Environment. There, she worked with the Department of the Interior to better understand how Indigenous peoples could leverage existing mechanisms to co-manage, access, and protect their resources and further their sovereign control over lands and waters. She plans to dedicate her career to collective liberation and protection. 

Simon Engler ’23 will spend his Robina Fellowship year in Berlin, Germany, where he will work in the Unit for Financing International Climate Action in Germany's foreign ministry, the Federal Foreign Office. During the fellowship year, Engler will focus on issues related to the climate-oriented reform of multilateral development banks and other international financial institutions, loss-and-damage finance, and financial matters at global climate negotiations organized under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

At the Law School, Engler was a member of the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic and the Environmental Protection Clinic. He was also an editor-in-chief of the Yale Journal of International Law and a member of the student board of the Yale Environmental Law Association. During summers, Engler worked on environmental law and policy issues at Greenpeace International and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, among other organizations. Before law school, he worked as an editor at Foreign Affairs, in research on public administration reforms at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, and for the climate science organization Climate Central. Simon holds a bachelor’s degree in history and German studies from Brown University. 

Raaya Gomez ’22 will spend her Robina Fellowship year at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. She will clerk for Judge Darian Pavli and will conduct in research at the Research Unit of the Directorate of the Jurisconsult. At Yale Law School, Gomez focused her studies on international law, international human rights, and gender. She was a member of the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic. She was also a Notes and Comments Editor for the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, and a member of the Title IX Working Group.

Prior to Yale Law School, Gomez worked in legal research, policy and practice in Sri Lanka. Gomez has also worked on human rights research projects with the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) and International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific. More recently, she worked with the Women’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch on their work pertaining to violence and harassment in the world of work. Gomez is an Attorney-at-Law in Sri Lanka, and holds a Bachelor of Laws Degree from the University of Colombo, from which she graduated at the top of her class in 2018. She also holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of London International Programmes.

Dianne Lake ’21 will spend her Bernstein Fellowship year with Partners in Justice International, which provides practical and strategic support to local justice actors in conflict-affected communities seeking to open pathways to justice for victims of atrocity crimes at home. At Yale, Lake was a Student Director and Advocate in the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic, an Editor for the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, a member of the Reproductive Rights and Justice Project, and President of the Black Law Students Association. She was the 2021 recipient of the Khosla Memorial Fund for Human Dignity Prize.

Lake now works as an associate at Arnold and Porter LLP, where she represents sovereign states in investor-state arbitrations and maintains an active pro bono practice with a focus on asylum and international human rights. She spent summers working for the Clooney Foundation for Justice, the Public International Law and Policy Group, and the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance. Lake was also a 2019-2020 Fox International Fellow at the University of Ghana. She holds a B.A. in political science and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies from Yale College.

Milagros Mutsios ’22 LLM will spend her Robina Fellowship year as a clerk on the Inter-American Human Right Court, reviewing cases regarding indigenous rights and the execution of extractive activities in compliance with human rights. Mutsios is a former Fox Fellow with Yale’s MacMillan Center and previously worked as an associate at a Peruvian law firm specializing in mining, environmental, and natural resources law. This experience permitted her to become an Adjunct Professor at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Peru and a legal researcher at several international research groups focused on natural resources, environmental law, and the intersection with human rights. At Yale Law School, Mutsios was a member of the Lowenstein Clinic where she worked on a project regarding women's effective participation in the Chilean constitutional process in alliance with U.N. Women-Chile. 

Porter Nenon ’23 will spend his Bernstein Fellowship year in Kenya working with Namati, an organization that uses grassroots legal strategies to build power among communities while advancing social and environmental justice. At Yale, Nenon was a Student Director of the Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic, a Student Director of the Schell Center for International Human Rights, and an Editor of the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism and of the Yale Journal of International Law. Porter spent summers working on community-led advocacy for the human rights of pastoralist peoples in northern Kenya and civilian victims of the war in Tigray, as well as interning at the European Court of Human Rights.

Prior to law school, Nenon lived in Kampala, Uganda, and supported community-based organizations working on gender justice and refugee issues in Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Kenya. Nenon holds a B.A. in political and social thought from the University of Virginia, an M.A. in humanitarianism and conflict response from the University of Manchester, and an M.Sc. in African politics from SOAS University of London. 

Carolyn O’Connor ’19 will spend her Bernstein Fellowship year in South Korea working with Duroo Association for Public Interest Law, a legal organization dedicated to investigating, litigating, and advocating for human rights and social justice. O’Connor’s work will focus on advocacy, research, and the use of international human rights mechanisms to secure the rights of asylum-seekers at ports of entry and in detention centers. At Yale, she was a Student Director of Schell Center and a member of the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic, the International Refugee Assistance Project, and the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic. Following graduation, O’Connor has been a staff attorney at Jones Day’s Border Project in the Rio Grande Valley and a Justice Catalyst Fellow at the Texas Civil Rights Project. She holds a Master of Arts in law and diplomacy from The Fletcher School and a B.A. in liberal arts from Sarah Lawrence College.

The Schell Center offers law students and graduates diverse opportunities to apply the lessons they are learning in the classroom to further the cause of human rights and to examine human rights practice critically. It also brings critical human rights discussion to the wider university community. At the same time, it provides a forum for international human rights practitioners to consider the theoretical issues their work entails and for scholars studying human rights to engage in interdisciplinary dialogue.