The 2022 UW Law Commencement, the first in-person ceremony in three years and the first that the law school has celebrated on the Quad, was the crowning achievement of students from our academic degree programs. In this spotlight, four new alumni define their time on campus.

Aristo Pangaribuan, Ph.D. '22

Changing Lives Through Global Scholarship

Aristo Pangaribuan (Ph.D.'22) hails from a family of lawyers, all of whom began their legal careers at the University of Indonesia in Depok, a city adjacent to the country’s capital, Jakarta. Pangaribuan’s father was a public defender for more than 40 years before opening a commercial law practice. His mother is a law professor at the University of Indonesia, and his two siblings received their LL.M. degrees from Harvard and Columbia.

Aristo Pangaribuan, Ph.D. '22

While each family member chose a legal career, they had individual callings. Pangaribuan was inspired to fight for criminal justice during events leading to the 1998 oust of Suharto, Indonesia’s longest serving President whose right-wing regime meant a corrupt legal system that was often brutal and deadly.

“When Indonesia was in turmoil, my dad was defending the opposition as part of the pro-democracy faction. He brought documents and political videos home in order to study cases,” Pangaribuan recalls.

“I was in elementary school, about 11 or 12 years old, when I played one of my dad’s videotapes about a riot. I helped myself to what he brought home, and I had a personal awakening to pursue a legal career in criminal justice.” Later, in high school, Pangaribuan marched in a protest against the government.

Indonesia’s transition to democracy began in May 1998. “I entered law school in 2004, when the country had full, civil legal reforms, including a focus on criminal justice,” Pangaribuan says. “From the beginning, I was interested in how criminal law and procedure are implemented in society because that is an authoritarian government’s number one weapon.”

From law school at his family’s shared alma mater, Pangaribuan went to Utrecht University in the Netherlands for an LL.M. in Criminal Justice. While reviewing scholarly research on Indonesia as a teaching assistant there, he decided that he would pursue a Ph.D. in Law. His aim would be to “equip himself with more knowledge” so he could “contribute something valuable” to the research and scholarship about Indonesia.

Pangaribuan is a living example of how global scholarship can change lives and center people’s attention on a particular place. He was drawn to the UW by the prolific writings of the late Daniel Lev, known to many as “Bapak (Father) Dan,” a UW political science professor and renowned scholar of Indonesia. Dr. Lev wrote the 1965 article, “The Politics of Judicial Development in Indonesia,” which inspired Pangaribuan’s dissertation about the politics in Indonesian case processing.

Even though Daniel Lev retired in 1999 and passed away in 2006, Pangaribuan was attracted to how other UW scholars focused on Asia have incorporated Dr. Lev’s approach to examining the relationship between Indonesian law and politics. The Asian Law Center was also a big factor.

“From a political science lens, Daniel Lev examined how humans really process the law inside their minds,” Pangaribuan explains. “In criminal justice, everything is about subjective judgment; discretion is a constant feature. I found that the best way to understand justice is to investigate the political dimension.”

UW Law professors Clark Lombardi, Hugh Spitzer and Anna Bosch were also influential figures in Pangaribuan’s decision to study here for his Ph.D. After Indonesia’s transition to democracy began, many donors, especially from the United States, began to pour dollars into its economy– something that Professor Bosch’s research has centered on. Of Professor Lombardi’s specialty in Islamic law, Pangaribuan says, “Indonesia is a very interesting case study for examining the dynamics between how religious values interplay with secular law. Moreover, Hugh Spitzer’s focus on the relationship between the law and politics has helped Pangaribuan examine how the law operates in society.

Studying the law in three countries for different degrees has given Pangaribuan an interesting perspective on law school culture, specifically the social aspect. “Compared to Europe,” he says, “I’ve had a more energetic student experience, with the big football stadium and gym. It’s amazing to integrate sports and academics.” Pangaribuan has attended several Husky games and has especially enjoyed watching the tennis team.

In the classroom, Pangaribuan has appreciated the discussions about current events tied to the law, including the unfolding of public consciousness after the 2020 murder of George Floyd. “In Europe, there was a tendency to study the law as though it was scripture in a closed internal system,” he reflects. “There was less connecting it to the real world as we do here. Here, when we study criminal justice, we tie it to issues like racism and police brutality.”

He has also appreciated the extra time he’s had during his Ph.D. studies to contemplate societal issues and create four documentary videos on YouTube, the most recent of which is the criminalization of marijuana in Indonesia. During his studies at the UW, Pangaribuan and his wife also welcomed their first daughter, Tamara Arista.

Before arriving at the UW, Pangaribuan had never spent time before in the U.S. apart from one visit to his brother at Harvard. His years at the UW have rounded out his life and academic experiences, as he resumes his work as a defense lawyer at a small-scale law firm in Jakarta and continues to teach.

Gabrielle Ayala-Montgomery, J.D. ’22

Equity & Inclusion in Action

In the small, rural Oregon town where she moved with her family from Concord, California, Gabrielle Ayala-Montgomery (J.D. ’22)  got used to being different. “I was one of the few even partially Mexican people in my town, and I didn't know anyone with disabilities, either, at least those who were open about it,” she said, referring to her physical disability. Ayala-Montgomery, who was born with a deformity on her ear and is half deaf,  is three-quarters white and one-quarter of Mexican heritage. “I was never taught Spanish, so it was hard because I also didn't feel like I fit in with the kids I knew that usually spoke in Spanish.”

Gabrielle Ayala-Montgomery, J.D. ’22

Set apart socially, Ayala-Montgomery fell in love with books, animals and nature, which she saw plenty of in Walterville. “It worked out well, because I still love reading and writing, and those skills are great in law school,” she quipped. Ayala-Montgomery, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from the University of Oregon, credits the impassioned advocacy of her mother in inspiring her to stand up for her right to an equal education when she arrived at UW Law for the J.D. program.

“In law school classrooms, due to the nature of debate, it's important to create an accessible classroom environment from the get-go,” Ayala-Montgomery explains. “Having any number of 150 law students chiming in from all around the room, without a professor wearing a microphone, was not conducive to my hearing issues. We have access to this really amazing technology that can amplify voices– we just needed to make the connection to use it so I would not miss out on learning opportunities. It’s a major equity issue.” 

Ayala-Montgomery’s mom is a former special education teacher with a master’s degree in social services. “Growing up, my mom was really instrumental in making sure that I was able to sit up front where I could hear in class,” she said. “My mom introduced me to the fact that there are laws to protect this right. Therefore, school administrators and teachers have to comply with what's reasonable and was legally asked.”

Ayala-Montgomery spent the first two weeks of her 1L year working with Anna Endter, associate dean for students, on the disability accommodations process.

When Ayala-Montgomery got a closed-captioner hired to accompany her classes, both in-person and remotely, her grades went from B-pluses to As. “I was finally getting to that portion where I could hear the little bits of the lecture that can tip the paper over the B-plus range. I am now hoping that every single professor that had me will now be more aware of these issues.”

Ayala-Montgomery’s advocacy stretched into the workplace as well. Her intellectual property law concentration led her to an internship at the Allen Institute, a bioresearch company with over 500 employees. “I successfully requested that they enable live transcription for the whole organization’s conferencing software,” she said. “It meant a lot to me that I was able to apply what I've learned from my advocacy conversations at UW Law to other contexts, like corporations, and see that they could be receptive.”

Through word-of-mouth, Ayala-Montgomery became a peer mentor for other students at UW Law requiring disability accommodations, ranging from mood disorders, to autism, to loss of limbs. Endter matched Ayala-Montgomery with other students to provide insight, support and advice of what she learned throughout her advocacy in the accommodations process.

“Even though I'm not pursuing a career in disability law, I care that students with disabilities get an equal education,” Ayala-Montgomery said. 

Her undergraduate political science major and international relations classes introduced her to human rights work, which she continued to explore at UW Law as Professor Anita Ramasastry’s Hazelton Fellow under the Business, Human Rights and Law initiative.  

“I am extremely fascinated about how protecting human rights is good for business,” Ayala-Montgomery said. One of her fellowship projects involved analyzing human rights risks associated with Seattle’s bid to host the FIFA World Cup 2026, including how individuals with disabilities will be able to access stadiums and platforms like ticketing apps, and identifying resources to remedy issues.

Ayala-Montgomery hopes to stay in Seattle and grow a career in tech law or tech transactions, “servicing some of the greatest companies that are putting out new technologies.” Her mentor, a trademark lawyer for Amazon, exposed her to in-house transactions work, which inspired Ayala-Montgomery to take as many technology law classes as possible to learn from adjunct professors in the corporate world.

“It’s great how small the legal community is in Seattle,” she said, citing reasons she has fallen in love with the city. “When you mention a professor and multiple attorneys have had them, you have all these common connections. I look forward to going to trivia games with my professor and an old supervisor because they know each other. It's just this nice web of community among attorneys who want to share what they know with people coming before or after them. I’ve really enjoyed that, and I'm hoping to do that someday for others when I'm an attorney. And then it's just so gorgeous here.”

Yuliia Kovalchuk, LL.M. ‘22

Advocate for Justice in Ukraine

Yuliia Kovalchuk, who graduated with bachelor’s and master’s of law degrees from the Ivan Franko National University in her hometown of Lviv, Ukraine, did a lot of research about pursuing a second L.L.M. degree abroad. She worked for firms in Poland and Ukraine on matters ranging from prosecuting international crimes to representing the interests of asylum seekers. Curious about U.S. law and American perceptions of legal systems, she was drawn to the UW Law community’s strong commitment to service and social change, even with a diverse range of interests and cultural backgrounds.

Yuliia Kovalchuk, LL.M. ‘22

“One specific reason I chose UW is because of the people,” Kovalchuk said. “What’s the point of studying law if you do not serve your communities, our people? One can talk about things beautifully written in the books, but if you don't change anything, I see no sense in that.” 

Kovalchuk, who became a Barer Fellow at UW Law with the Barer Institute for Law & Global Human Services, remembers her early days in the Summer Institute in Transnational Law, a two-week program offered to international students who would be navigating differences in legal systems, such as common versus civil law. Wrapping up the final school quarter, she was shocked to read a congratulatory e-mail in response to completing a graduation survey. “It said, ‘Congratulations, you’re now a Husky for life,’” Kovalchuk said. “It just happened so fast.”

The full scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia gave Kovalchuk the opportunity to share her native Ukrainian perspective and former prosecution work with the UW community. She gave three public talks at UW, including one on human rights violations, to raise awareness about what was happening in Ukraine.

“As a Barer fellow, it was important to me to promote the values that we have in my native country,” Kovalchuk said. “Unfortunately, we are paying a really high price for freedom in Ukraine. Freedom is this thing that Ukrainians cherish the most and will never surrender, or never stop fighting. I don't know if Russia will ever understand that.”

In preparing for a talk in the Social Justice Tuesdays series, Kovalchuk reflects on her strategic approach to sharing information: “I knew that people are probably following the news, and they know the developments of the war. But I just wanted to focus more on the reasons and preconditions because people are condemning their aggression without knowing the context. Context given by the media is not the broad context in reality. This war did not just start this year, or in 2014 when Russia last attacked. It started centuries ago.”

During her time in UW Law’s LL.M. program, Kovalchuk was the Ukraine researcher for The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) in Washington, DC. Her classes in international law, including International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights Advocacy Seminar and International Conflict, helped widen her mindset and master the skills she already had. 

“The vibrant UW Law environment and people I’ve met taught me to be open-minded and never stop exploring, which is crucial for my future career,” she says. 

In January, Kovalchuk applied for an internship with the international Clooney Foundation for Justice, co-founded by George and Amal Clooney. For four months, she worked with a supervisor based in Australia on an advocacy project focused on the United Nations, and other international and human rights bodies. Now that Clooney has turned its focus to Ukraine, Kovalchuk is going to be involved in bringing to justice those who are committing crimes. 

She said, “It is a unique opportunity for me to stand for all my fellow Ukrainians in our fight for justice and make sure that none of those crimes will go unpunished.”

Just before graduation, Kovalchuk received a critical UW fellowship to cover her continued work at the Clooney Foundation for Justice, an acknowledgment of her potential for social and political impact. 

"Being selected as a Joan Fitzpatrick Fellow renewed my confidence that I am capable of positive change,” she said.

Afterwards, Kovalchuk has every intention of returning to Ukraine. “Everyone there is doing so much in their own way that we can endure,” she reflects. “I feel endless gratitude to all who defend our country – those who stop tanks with their bare hands, heal our wounded, rescue animals, evacuate people, fight propaganda and document the unbearable. I am planning to make my own contribution on what I call the ‘legal frontline’ and advocate for justice. There is so much work to do right now.”

Paige Vogel, M.J. ‘22

Increasing Access to the Law

When Paige Vogel (M.J. `22) graduated from college, she traveled to Central America and lived with Venezuelans in Panama City who had been forced to flee their native country. With her eyes opened firsthand to people’s attempts to rebuild meaningful lives in a new environment, she returned to Seattle to work at the Refugee Women’s Alliance and later with Jewish Family Service

Paige Vogel, M.J. ‘22

During her seven years in refugee and immigrant services, work which she calls “humbling and inspiring,” Vogel noticed that the lack of access to legal knowledge impacted many people’s lives. With the support of her employer, Vogel enrolled in the Master of Jurisprudence program at UW Law, completing the program in two years while working full time.

Vogel was inspired by professor Theo Myhre’s passion for making legal education accessible, the same mission she shares in bringing her M.J. education back to the workplace. 

A native of Issaquah, Vogel lived in England and Port Orchard with her family before moving to Vashon Island for high school. She majored in cultural anthropology at Western Washington University, with a minor in international studies and Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL).

“I've always really enjoyed working with other cultures and diverse environments,” Vogel says. “Working with refugees and immigrants is where I feel like I'm challenged, learning new things everyday about the world, and seeing people who are really hardworking and persevering through so much.” 

Adding a graduate program to a full-time work schedule during a pandemic introduced different challenges. “There were times when I was at work taking classes from my office, and I think partially, it made it more challenging to build relationships. At the same time, virtual learning also made it really accessible to just pop on to a class for an hour, and then go back to the work day.”

Vogel believes that her professional background enriched her academic experience because her understanding of resettlement issues such as forced migration helped her connect with other students’ passions around immigration law. Though she only took one in-person class during the pandemic, an externship with Project Adelante and weekly online discussions with other students were memorable connections, as well as the substantial paper she worked on as part of her M.J. degree requirements.

“I expanded on a research paper with an organization based out of Rome, called UNIDROIT with about five students from the Global Law and Policy Class over two quarters. It should have been a ten-page paper for the class, but it ended up being very long by the end of our extended period: about 50 pages. I think those are the relationships I'll be able to hold on to because we were working on such a passion project. I was able to build significant relationships from the smaller classes.”

Another meaningful experience for Vogel was presenting with one of her Afghan colleagues at UW Law’s Social Justice Tuesdays event about the current refugee crisis in Afghanistan. She recalls, “It was enjoyable to get to share my work with fellow students with whom I hadn't overlapped much in person, and to explain what it means for those who are arriving here as their immigration status is a little bit different than the typical refugee.”

The M.J. program has opened Vogel’s eyes to many different ways to use the law. She was particularly fascinated by a class on natural resources law, with a focus on land rights for women in poverty. For now, Vogel is excited after graduation to expand the programming she oversees at Jewish Family Service, such as engaging women clients in economic integration and building up their credit and financial literacy.

“Just one percent of displaced populations actually get resettled to a third country. When displaced populations are not yet resettled into their final destination, they're in limbo trying to understand their rights in a country that they're forced to be in,” Vogel reflects. “As a long term goal, I'd love to go abroad and support displaced populations.”