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Student Scholars 2014-2015

USC Gould School of Law
The Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy, and Ethics supports wide-ranging research by the Saks Institute Student Scholars. The institute educates these future legal, medical and public policy leaders to employ cutting-edge research methodology and to serve the larger cause of social justice. The Scholars conduct research on the institute's topic of the year and present work that is published in academic journals. To date, 25 student papers have been published in three journals.

James Becerra

James Becerra is a third-year law student at USC Gould School of Law. He is a graduate of the U.C. Davis, where he majored in English. In addition to serving on the board of the Interdisciplinary Law Journal and participating in the Mediation Clinic, he is currently working at a firm that focuses on commercial and employment litigation. As a Saks Scholar, Becerra looks forward to researching and drafting a paper focused on the intersection of mental health, universities, and employment.


Brian Bello

Brian Bello is a third-year psychiatry resident at USC. He received a B.S. in psychology at the University of Florida before continuing his studies at the Ohio State University College of Medicine. During medical school, he spent his free time volunteering in free clinics and for the suicide prevention hotline. Bello has a particular interest in childhood trauma and plans to pursue a fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry, before dedicating his career to working with youth connected to the juvenile correctional system. He is honored to be part of the Saks Institute and is excited to work with other young professionals interested in mental health advocacy.


Jessica Choi

Jessica Choi is a second-year law student at USC Gould School of Law and is interested in a career in the public sector. She earned a B.A. in American Studies with a concentration in Ethnic Studies at Amherst College. Before coming to USC, she worked in nonprofit organizations and a civil litigation firm. Over the past summer, she was an extern in the U.S. District Court for the Honorable Manuel L. Real. This year, Choi is a case manager for the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project and a Student Ambassador for the USC Gould Office of Admissions. As a Saks Scholar, she looks forward to gaining a greater understanding of mental health law and reducing the stigma of mental illness.


Nandini Dasarathy

Nandini Dasarathy is a fourth-year law student at USC Gould School of Law and USC Marshall School of Business. She received a B.A. in economics from Cornell University. Before attending law school, Dasarathy worked as a Business Technology Analyst at Deloitte Consulting and volunteered for a student-run mental health hotline. Since then, as a South Asian Bar Association Public Interest Fellow, she worked at a domestic violence clinic refining client intake procedures and preparing U-visa applications for immigrant victims of domestic violence. At USC, Dasarathy served as a Senior Content Editor for the Interdisciplinary Law Journal and held leadership positions in the Student Bar Association and the South Asian Law Student Association. She is particularly interested in how addressing mental health issues is crucial for solving systemic issues such as domestic violence and veterans' re-assimilation.


Marie Gillespie

Marie Gillespie is a third-year psychology Ph.D. student in USC's Clinical Science program and completed her M.A. degree in May. She graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. in psychology and minors in criminal justice and behavioral forensics from the University of Central Florida. As a McNair Scholar, she completed an undergraduate honors thesis on the influence of defendant mental illness on jury sentencing. At USC, Gillespie works in Dr. Stan Huey's lab and her research interests include developing evidence-based interventions for at-risk youth and juvenile offenders, multisystemic therapy (MST), juvenile justice policy, and forensic program evaluations. Gillespie is currently a student therapist at USC and works with children, families, couples, and adults.


Amanda Gorman

Amanda Gorman is a second-year philosophy Ph.D. student at USC, where she focuses on metaethics and philosophy of action, especially free will and moral responsibility. Before coming to USC, she graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in Philosophy and English from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. She has also worked in the field of education for many years, at the non-profit organization EducationWorks, and at Windsor Learning Center, a school focused on special education. Amanda is honored to be a part of the Saks Institute this year, and is particularly interested in investigating the philosophical notion of personal autonomy and its relationship to paternalistically motivated intervention in the lives of those dealing with mental health related concerns.


Rubin Khoddam

Rubin Khoddam is a third-year Psychology Ph.D. student in USC's Clinical Science program. Prior to coming to USC, he graduated cum laude and received his B.S. in Psychology from University of California, San Diego. For the past 6 years, Rubin's research and clinical work has been focused on risk and protective factors associated with the development of substance use disorders as well as co-occurring psychopathology. He hopes to continue doing research in this field as well as disseminating his work through in-person and online platforms, including his blog for Psychology Today titled The Addiction Connection.


Lauren Killedjian

Lauren Killedjian is a second-year law student at USC Gould School of Law. She received a B.A. in English and a minor in Psychology and Law from the University of Southern California. As an undergraduate student, she enrolled in every mental health course available and wrote several papers on the subject. In the summer following her 1L year, she worked as an intern at a law firm where she focused primarily on criminal cases. Her area of interest lies at the intersection of mental health and the law, as well as the perception and stigma surrounding mental health in the media and pop culture.


Katharine Klebes

Katharine Klebes is a third year law student and Dean's Fellow at Quinnipiac University School of Law, where she serves as Symposium Editor of the Quinnipiac Health Law Journal. Klebes graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Florida with a degree in English Literature. She became interested in the intersection between mental and physical health while completing her Master's Degree in Women's Studies at the University of Florida, during which time she worked extensively with victims of domestic violence. She spent this past summer interning in the Office of the General Counsel for the Department of Health and Human Services in Boston, Massachusetts. As a Saks Scholar, Klebes is interested in studying the limited availability of mental health services at community colleges, with a focus on the provision of mental health services in California and Virginia.


Carl Nash

Carl Nash is a third-year law student as USC Gould School of law. He earned his B.A. in Political Science at U.C. Berkeley focusing on political elections and campaigns. Prior to entering law school, he shifted his career focus to health care policy and has since concentrated his professional development on health care in the legal field - working for both the legal departments at Children's Hospital Los Angeles last spring and currently at Molina Healthcare in Long Beach. As the son of a disabled veteran, he has decided to focus his scholarly work on veterans' matters. Specifically, their mental health and the stigma they often experience in both their collegiate and professional lives.


Niles Pierson

Niles Pierson is a third-year law student at USC Gould School of Law. He received a B.A. in philosophy from U.C. Berkeley. Before attending law school, he worked briefly as an administrative assistant in the Riverside County Regional Medical Center Inpatient Treatment Facility, a psychiatric hospital. At USC, Pierson serves as the Executive Notes Editor of the Law Review, and has played a leadership role in a number of student organizations, such as the Public Interest Law Foundation, the Government Law Organization, and the Black Law Student Association. He is particularly interested in the privacy rights of those who have received mental health treatment.


Tyler Sheets

Tyler Sheets is a second-year law student at USC Gould School of Law. Tyler received a B.A. in International Relations from U.C. San Diego and minored in Cognitive Science. He grew up in Hawaii, but spent most of his early years in the developing world playing soccer while his mom did aid work. He is interested in and frustrated with the criminalization of mental illness and how universities handle depression, addiction, and other mental health issues. He is thrilled to be a part of the Saks Institute and hopes to always be involved in the field.