USC Gould Search

Public Interest Scholars

Building upon USC Gould's longstanding tradition of legal service in the public interest, our public interest scholarships honor the commitment of our students who are dedicated to serving the public interest. In addition to a merit-based scholarship, the benefits of selection as a Public Interest Scholar include:

  • access to Public Interest Law certificate mentorship opportunities
  • guaranteed summer employment at public service organizations the summer following your first year of law school
  • a stipend to support your summer employment
  • future opportunities to mentor subsequent groups of Public Interest Scholars

Scholars are selected on the basis of merit and demonstrated commitment to public interest work. Selection criteria include strong academic indicators (LSAT score and undergraduate cumulative GPA) and significant achievements in the fields of public interest work or government service. The committee will give priority to applicants with a history of full-time nonprofit or public interest focused work. For timely consideration in selection as a Public Interest Scholar, please submit your application by the priority deadline of February 1st.

To apply, you will be required to include a separate essay within your application for admission to USC Gould. Your essay should address the following prompt: In one to two pages, please highlight your public interest or government service background and your commitment to a career in public service.

For timely consideration in selection as a Public Interest Scholar, please submit your application by the priority deadline of February 1st.

If chosen, you will be notified later in the spring, prior to the first seat deposit deadline. Scholars will be expected to perform 25 pro bono hours each year and participate in certain programming, such as nonprofit career fairs.

2018-19 Public Interest Scholars

Alina Edep

Undergraduate: Georgetown University

Alina grew up in South Florida before heading to D.C. to attend Georgetown University (Hoya Saxa!). She graduated in 2018 with a BA in Psychology with minors in Spanish and Sociology. During her undergraduate career, she developed a passion for public interest work after interning with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in both Miami and D.C., as well as working as a research assistant for a Georgetown professor studying juveniles in the criminal justice system who waive their right to an attorney. These experiences inspired her to apply to law school in order to one day become an attorney who makes a difference in these fields.

Alina largely chose USC Gould due to the Public Interest Scholars program and the opportunities it provides her to foster her passion for public interest through mentorship, summer job funding, and overall support. She is excited to pursue her passion by one day working in government or criminal justice system reform, and she is thrilled that being a Public Interest Scholar will afford her the opportunities and support she needs to reach that goal.

Taylor Jones

Undergraduate: Claremont McKenna College

Taylor earned her BA in Environment, Economics, and Politics from Claremont McKenna College. Prior to attending Gould, Taylor served as the policy manager for Zero-Emission Vehicle Infrastructure in the Office of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. During her five-year tenure, she worked on a small team responsible for implementing the governor's vision for clean transportation. She developed strategies to accelerate zero-emission vehicle adoption in California and coordinated the statewide efforts to make plug-in electric and hydrogen fueling stations commonplace in California.

Taylor's introduction to state government began with the California Capital Fellows Program, a yearlong post-graduate opportunity to work at the highest level of state government. In the Governor's Office, she developed competency in a broad range of environmental issues including toxic substances, sustainable buildings, and clean transportation, which emerged as her focus area.

As a Public Interest Scholar, Taylor looks forward to bringing her enthusiasm for public service to the Gould community and continuing to explore the intersection of people and the environment. She is consistently energized by the magnitude of the challenges ahead and short timeline to make progress.

Jesse Mentz

Undergraduate: University of Southern California

Jesse grew up in Indianapolis, before moving to Los Angeles 10 years ago to start his BA (and eventually MA) in International Relations from USC. While completing his first two degrees, he interned for an international anti-trafficking agency, the Scottish Parliament, and the U.S. Department of State. He devoted most of his MA to studying the anti-trafficking movement. Through these experiences, Jesse developed a deep appreciation for the importance of a functioning public justice system.

After graduating and marrying his wife (also a Trojan), Jesse spent more than five years working in finance, first as a consultant at a real estate valuation firm and later as an investment analyst for an endowment. This last year while applying for law school, Jesse and his wife welcomed their first child into the world.

Jesse's relationship with Jesus motivates him to pursue law, having become convinced that the God of the Bible cares deeply about issues of violence, injustice, and oppression-issues easily visible in the South Los Angeles neighborhood where he lives. Upon graduation, Jesse hopes to work in the criminal justice system in the Los Angeles area.

Jesse enjoys craft coffee, the sound of a jazz trio and a mandolin, good theology, the crisp fresh air in Yosemite Valley, and most of all, his baby daughter and wife.

Mirelle Raza

Undergraduate: Santa Clara University

Mirelle Raza grew up in Massachusetts before moving to the Bay Area for her undergraduate studies in 2012. During her time at Santa Clara University, Mirelle was contracted at the Santa Clara County Office of Women's Policy, working specifically on policy and legislative initiatives including violence against women, criminal justice, and living wage ordinances. Mirelle later used her policy experience to co-author a petition that served as the largest student response to modifications regarding SCU faculty and staff access to reproductive health care, leading to a meeting with SCU's President in 2014. In her last year, Mirelle was accepted to a social justice study abroad program in Europe. Here she volunteered at a home for abused girls, while also participating in social justice projects in Italy, Croatia, and Bosnia.

Mirelle graduated 14 months early magna cum laude with a double major in Sociology and Women's and Gender Studies. She used her spring quarter to volunteer at the Victim Witness Center in SCC. It is here that she found a true passion for working closely with survivors of violence. She went on to work for the San Francisco District Attorney's office as a victim advocate, specializing in sexual assault cases for both adults and children, with a focus on human trafficking cases.

This role and her work with survivors has inspired Mirelle to become an even stronger advocate by pursuing a Juris Doctor. She is honored to be a part of USC Gould Public Interest Scholars Program and looks forward to building connections with her classmates, mentors, and local public service leaders.

Ally Wong

Undergraduate: Purdue University

Ally Wong was born and raised in Northern California. She graduated from Purdue University with a BA in History and Philosophy. As an undergraduate, Ally was actively engaged in a variety of research projects related to policy and politics, including the impact of racial composition on state legislatures, the effects of appearance on female elected officials, and the experiences of Chinese students during the Chinese Exclusion Act. In her senior year, she became particularly interested in environmental issues after assisting in research on net zero energy housing policy.

Outside of school, she interned and worked in government offices at the local, state, and federal level. These professional experiences instilled in her the importance of community engagement and political activism at every level of government. After graduation, Ally continued to cultivate her dedication and passion for policy by working in a congressional office.

Ally is excited to continue her education at USC Gould because she sees law as the most effective avenue to enacting meaningful policy and change. She plans to pursue her passion for environmental justice further during her time at Gould. Ally is incredibly honored to be a member of the Public Interest Scholar community, and she looks forward to the amazing opportunities ahead.

2017-18 Public Interest Scholars

Erika Ingram

Undergraduate: University of Southern California

Erika Ingram was born and raised in Southern California. She graduated from the University of Southern California with a BA in International Relations. As an undergraduate, she joined numerous service organizations, studied abroad in Rwanda and Jordan, interned as a member of JusticeCorps, and for the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office. After graduating, she spent her gap year at the Edmund D. Edelman Children's Court working for the judicial officers and research attorneys.

As a public interest scholar, Erika plans to continue her work in public service and give back to the Los Angeles community. She is passionate about the issues of child welfare, human trafficking and criminal justice, and her hope is to be an empowering voice and advocate for her clients. Throughout her 1L year, Erika volunteered at different Public Interest Law Foundation clinics and was active in the Teen Court program through the Latino Law Students Association. During the summer of 2018, Erika spent her time as a law clerk for the Children's Law Center of California. She enjoyed her time interacting with clients and advocating in court. Erika is excited to continue her education at USC and further her involvement with the Trojan Family. She is very grateful to be surrounded by a public interest community that offers so much support, guidance, and opportunity.

Nassim Moallem

Undergraduate: San Diego State University

Nassim Moallem grew up in Silicon Valley before moving down to Southern California to attend San Diego State University. She graduated summa cum laude with a double major in Women's Studies and Political Science, and a double minor in honors interdisciplinary studies and television, film, and new media. Her commitment to public interest began with on-campus organizing and activism related to the promotion of gender and racial justice. Nassim also served as a Panetta Institute Congressional Intern for the D.C. Office of Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. This inspired Nassim to pursue law school with the goal of one-day holding public office herself.

This past summer, Nassim clerked for the Immigrant Defenders Law Center assisting their Adult Representation Project, which works to represent those in deportation proceedings. She primarily assisted with cases for detained clients, gaining a deeper understanding of how U.S. laws and the legal system continue to criminalize immigrants and prevent their access towards legal status. Nassim will continue to volunteer with ImmDef throughout the academic year.

Jared Osborne

Undergraduate: New York University

Jared Osborne was born and raised in Chino Hills, Calif. He attended New York University where he majored in Art History. Afterwards, Jared joined Teach for America. He moved to Mississippi and worked just across the Mississippi River in Helena, Ark. as an elementary school art teacher from 2009-2011. He spent the following school year teaching third grade in Lambert, Miss., while earning his Masters of Elementary Education from Delta State University (home of the Fighting Okra!). He then returned to New York to live in Brooklyn where he spent two years teaching third grade. Following that, Jared branched out into the nonprofit world, working at iMentor, where he helped 10th graders cultivate strong mentor/mentee relationships with local area professionals. Despite Brooklyn's many charms, Jared returned to Lambert yet again to teach fourth grade from 2015-2017.

Jared was inspired and humbled by his teaching experiences. They reinforced his belief in the importance of working in public interest, and led him to USC. After teaching for the past eight years, Jared is enjoying the chance to be a student again. He also felt privileged to teach local students about the law through Street Law and assist individuals obtain their benefits through CARES outings. He spent the 2018 summer working in the housing and communities work group at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.

Ricca Prasad

Undergraduate: George Washington University

Prior to coming to law school, Ricca Prasad worked in community-based health programming and research. She earned her BS and Master of Public Health (MPH) from George Washington University. While attending school, she worked on a variety of research projects, including using drawing prompts as a child-friendly method of data collection, motivational interviewing with women in drug treatment court, measuring and addressing social barriers to patients' adherence to treatment plans, and providing housing to improve health outcomes for homeless patients.

Ricca worked with the National Association of Community Health Centers for two years while earning her MPH. She then spent two years working for the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers in New Jersey, first as an AmeriCorps volunteer and then as a Program Assistant.

Since becoming a law student at USC, she has volunteered with Street Law, teaching law to high school students, and the Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF), interviewing low-income clients at various legal aid clinics. This past summer, she worked at the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law in Koreatown on a project to gather information about and make recommendations for L.A. County's plan to relocate the local women's jail from an urban to rural area. She continues to work on the issue part-time as a Project Assistant.

Ariana Stobaugh

Undergraduate: University of Southern California

Ariana Stobaugh grew up in Reno but moved to L.A. in 2009 when she attended USC as an undergraduate. At USC, Ariana worked at a political education start-up and with AmeriCorps' JumpStart. She also served as a women's youth mentor with Women and Youth Supporting Each Other, a health educator through Peer Health Exchange, and a volunteer with the Joint Educational Project.

After graduating with a double major in Political Science and Sociology, Ariana joined Teach for America and taught high school English in Los Angeles. While teaching, Ariana received her Master's in Urban Education Policy from Loyola Marymount University and became the English Department Chair at her school.

However, Ariana wanted to combine her passion for social justice, her innate inner academic interest, and the powerful platform of a law degree. She was thrilled to return to USC as a Public Interest Scholar at Gould. During her 1L year, she was a 1L rep for the Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF) and Connecting Angelenos to Resources and Essential Services (CARES). She served as a summer clerk at Public Counsel's Audrey Irmas Women and Girls' Rights Project. During her 2L year, she is a Legal Writing Fellow, serves on Southern California Law Review, and is the Faculty and Alumni Relations Chair for PILF. She is taking a seminar entitled "The Legal & Social Determinants of Health," and participating in a Medical-Legal Community Partnership Practicum to forward her goal of working to advance access to health care and women's reproductive rights.

Vivian Zambrano

Undergraduate: California State University, Northridge

Vivian was born and raised in Los Angeles. She graduated from California State University, Northridge, earning a BA in History in 2014 and an MA in History in 2016. As a graduate student, she worked as a teacher's assistant helping instruct courses on Western Civilization and volunteered at a domestic violence and family law self-help center. She interned with Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County to help provide free legal services to underserved communities in Los Angeles. Her work has focused on family law, assisting self-represented litigants with divorce, paternity, and domestic violence restraining order cases.

After graduate school, Vivian completed a yearlong JusticeCorps Fellowship in a courthouse self-help center. She pioneered daily family law workshops for pro se litigants by developing a legal curriculum and training undergraduate volunteers.

During her 1L summer, Vivian worked with Public Counsel's Immigrants' Rights project. She helped children, detainees, and victims of human trafficking obtain legal status. As a 2L, Vivian is a board member of the Latino Law Students Association, Legal Aid Alternative Break, and the Womxn of Color Collective. She looks forward to working with Gould's Immigration Detention and Appellate Clinic.