The University of Washington School of Law is proud to announce the 2019-20 cohort of Gregoire Fellows: Celeste Ajayi, Kayla 'Auli'ilani Ganir, Mustafa Hassoun, Richard Kim, Christine McFadden, Kenneth Nelson, Kien-Thiet (KT) Nguyen, Gabriel Villarreal and Clara Virden.

Since 2015, the Gregoire Fellows program has attracted diverse and talented students to UW Law and connected them with leading Puget Sound area businesses, governmental organizations and law firms committed to increasing diversity in the legal profession.

The program is a unique partnership between UW Law and the legal community in Washington that works to ensure the legal profession reflects the incredible diversity in our society.

As part of the program, students receive paid summer internships, which split their summer work assignments between a placement within a participating law firm, and a corporate legal department or governmental entity after the first year of law school. Students also receive scholarship aid and financial assistance for bar exam preparation. Additionally, the fellows participate in a mentorship program with former Washington Governor Christine Gregoire.

The Gregoire Fellows Program is made possible thanks to generous support from sponsors, including Amazon, Davis Wright Tremaine, Foster Garvey, K&L Gates, King County Prosecutor’s Office, Lane Powell, Littler Mendelson, Microsoft, Nintendo, Orrick, Pacifica Law Group, Perkins Coie, Seattle Genetics, Starbucks, Stoel Rives, Vulcan, Washington State Attorney General’s Office, and Weyerhaeuser.

Meet the 2019 Gregoire Fellows

Celeste Ajayi

Celeste Ajayi

Bachelor's degree in Economics, Seattle Pacific University

Bachelor's degree in Political Science: Public Policy and Law, Seattle Pacific University

As an SPU President’s Scholar Award recipient, Ajayi promoted diversity through the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership, serving as the Student Union Board's Publicist, the Vice President of Campus Activities, and sat on the ASSP President's Action Cabinet. She promoted the inclusion of people from marginalized communities through the implementation of Culture Week and served as the Chair for a Food Insecurity Initiative, combatting students’ lack of access to sustainable food.

“Diversifying the legal field is incredibly vital, therefore I will use my experience as a Fellow to further promote the representation of black women in law,” Ajayi said. “I plan to use this experience to enhance my leadership skills in order to serve others, especially women of color. The Gregoire Fellowship program will give me the resources and guidance to make this a reality and I am thrilled for the opportunity to gain hands-on experience alongside Seattle’s immensely successful lawyers.”

Kayla Ganir

Kayla 'Auli'ilani Ganir

B.A., cum laude, English Literature, Writing Studies minor, Seattle University

During her undergraduate studies, Ganir has channeled her voice of advocacy interning at OneAmerica, a Seattle non-profit organization that supports minority, immigrant, and refugee communities. She continues to work as a senior family law and criminal defense legal assistant at Bell Flegenheimer. She is also involved with the Filipino Lawyers of Washington and Pinay Powerhouse Conferences for Filipina women attorneys to promote the importance of diversity and people of color in the legal field.

“As a multiethnic person it's an honor to represent each of my cultures as a Gregoire Fellow,” Ganir said. “I advocate that rather than seeing race as lines of division, the unique perspectives of minority communities should be considered as crucial fragmented parts of a whole. I plan to utilize the skills and connections afforded by this remarkable program to reflect on the ways legal practice can be used as a tool for emphasizing values of equity and empathy not only in the legal sphere but as a common good.”

Mustafa Hassoun

Mustafa Hassoun

B.A., cum laude, Political Science and Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies, Emory University

Hassoun focused his time as an undergraduate on global peace and conflict resolution, both in the classroom and extracurricularly, culminating in his research on the development of ethno-religious identities in the Middle East. Throughout college he worked for organizations like the Carter Center, Best Delegate, and the Baraka English School striving to improve access to education at home and abroad.

“Lawyers have the privilege to work with the foundation of our society and the responsibility to strengthen that foundation for all,” Hassoun said. “I hope that, as a Gregoire Fellow, I will learn to best navigate my future profession in order to amplify the voice of my communities and others like them.”

Richard Kim

Richard Kim

B.S., Economics, United States Military Academy

Kim served as an Army Captain and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal by the Secretary of the Army during his deployment to Afghanistan in 2016. Over the course of 100 combat patrols, Kim worked closely with Judge Advocates to enforce the proper Rules of Engagement and developed forums of inclusivity to internalize the fight against discriminatory language in his platoon. Recently, he served as an Intelligence Officer for the 1st Special Forces Group in Washington.

“I am so thankful and humbled by the opportunity to represent the University of Washington School of Law as a Gregoire Fellow," Kim said. "The Gregoire Fellowship is a profound opportunity to gain invaluable relationships with legal professionals and thriving businesses. This opportunity will undoubtedly shape my journey as a lawyer and empower my ability to be a legal advocate for marginalized groups in our society.”

Christine McFadden

Christine McFadden

B.A. with Honors, International Relations, Stanford University 
M.A., East Asian Studies, Stanford University

McFadden spent six years at Palantir Technologies, a Silicon Valley-based data analytics company, where she ran the expansion of the company's international infrastructure. Her role involved managing research across several areas of law, from global business practices to the immigration repercussions of the 2017 executive orders and Brexit. Prior to Palantir, she interned at the Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education and taught a class at Stanford on the Japanese American incarceration.

“The mentorship and multiple internship placements we are so fortunate to receive as Gregoire Fellows will help position me to be that much more of a well-rounded attorney able to make an impact,” McFadden said. “It's exciting to be a part of a program so invested in increasing diversity in this line of work, and I'm looking forward to learning a wide range of skills to enable me to contribute within and outside of the community in a wide range of ways.”

Kenneth Nelson

Kenneth Nelson

B.A., Political Science, University of Washington

Nelson dedicated 2 years of his life to full-time volunteer missionary service, which included work with community leaders to serve Southeast Asian and East African refugee communities in Salt Lake City. Prior to law school, he has worked with multiple technology companies--most recently on medical device technology projects that sought to improve patient safety and care.

“In this age of rapid technological advancement, new and unexpected challenges will arise in the global community,” Nelson said. “I believe that it will be important to work together with legal professionals in the public and private sector to develop conscientious solutions that will benefit the interests of all people. The Gregoire Fellows Program provides an incredibly valuable and unique experience that will help me gain perspectives and insights in how these emerging issues can be solved.”

KT Nguyen

Kien-Thiet (KT) Nguyen

Bachelor of Science with College Honors in Neurobiology, University of Washington

Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences, University of California, San Francisco

Nguyen, as a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow at the University of California, San Francisco, utilized cutting-edge biomedical techniques to elucidate the underlying mechanisms behind neurological cancers. During his time in graduate school, he also interned at the university's technology transfer office, where he aided efforts to maximize the university's intellectual property rights for commercial development and public benefit.

“Challenges in our current health care system and inadequacies in medical treatments require complex, multi-faceted solutions,” Nguyen said. “By combining my experience as a scientist with the rewarding opportunities provided by the Gregoire Fellowship, I look forward to working at the intersection of law and science to greatly improving human health.”

Gabriel Villareal

Gabriel R. Villarreal

Bachelor of Arts in Political Studies, Minor in Sociology - Pitzer College

Prior to law school, Villarreal served as a Senior Policy Advocate at Opportunity Fund working to expand the financial protections available to small business owners through anti-predatory lending legislation. That work grew to include building and supporting cross-sector coalitions to advance transparency and oversight of the online lending space. Prior to his advocacy work, Villarreal served as a Capital Fellow in the California State Legislature.

“Working in public policy, I saw how the most effective and long-lasting social change involved shifting public opinions, good legislation, and effective legal advocacy,” Villarreal said. “Legal advocacy makes change stick and the Gregoire Fellows Program is an amazing opportunity to learn how to do advocacy well. Creating and sustaining an equitable society will require diverse lawyers who reflect and advocate for the populations they serve. I am honored to be part of a program that takes that mission to heart.”

Clara Virden

Clara Virden

B.B.A., Accounting, Gonzaga University

After graduating from Gonzaga University in 2015, Virden worked as an accountant for several companies, including Triumph Composite Systems and Cascades Job Corps. She was responsible for interpreting and applying the standard accounting practices to all financial reports including financial statements, revenue review and analysis, and budget forecasts. Virden has also participated in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, which provides free tax preparation for low income members of the community.

“I am humbled by this opportunity and privilege to represent my community as a Gregoire Fellow,” Virden said. “I will use the resources and relationships I make as a Fellow to provide diversity and inclusion in the law profession. I am excited to work with, and learn from, legal professionals in Seattle and use my education and experiences to further help the Latina communities in the Pacific Northwest.”