Welcome to the Gates Public Service Law Program
The Gates Public Service Law Program has a number of new arrivals this fall, including new director Jana E. Matthews and the current class of five Gates Scholars: Natasha Anis, Sinjita Bhattacharya, Sue Han, Véronique Harris and Rotceh Vazquez-Guzman.
Created in November 2005 and named after the prominent Washington state attorney, public servant and UW Law alumnus who is the namesake of William H. Gates Hall, the Gates Public Service Law Program supports UW Law’s vision of making public service a reality for students. Gates Scholars have gone on to impact change on local, national and international levels at a variety of organizations.
The program awards full-ride scholarships to first-year students entering the J.D. program at UW Law for all three years. With the requirement that scholarship recipients work in public service for a five-year minimum following graduation, the Gates Scholarship covers tuition, books, other enrollment fees, room and board and incidental expenses.
“I am excited to build on the legacy of the Gates Public Service Law Program and the Gates Scholars who have demonstrated a strong commitment to public service during law school and after graduation,” says Matthews, who joined the Center for Career Development team in mid-October. “My personal passions of promoting access and giving back, and my professional experiences of connecting, collaborating and educating others reminds me that I am in the right place, at the right time to help support all students committed to doing work in the public service sector,” Matthews said.
Throughout her legal career, Matthews has honed her skills in the public, private and sectors. Since 2019, she has focused on career coaching, programming and supporting law students and alumni interested in learning more about legal careers that include pro bono service, public interest, government and Judge Advocate General (JAG) positions. Matthews is a graduate of Indiana University McKinney School of Law and admittee to the Indiana State Bar.
Her commitment to elevating and supporting the student experience will help advance public service in the UW Law community and make a greater impact on communities throughout the state, the region and the world. She says the Gates Public Service Law program team looks forward to “being intentional in our programming, counseling and outreach that ensures we are providing opportunities for access, action and advocacy to those who seek our assistance.”
Meet the current class of Gates Scholars
Natasha Anis graduated from Pomona College, where she studied English with a focus on postcolonial literature. She is interested in the direct impact that storytelling has on political movements and community-led organizing. Before coming to UW Law, Natasha was an active member of local abolitionist groups and worked with a faith-based organization which connected people held in immigrant detention centers with legal services. She co-led an inaugural conference at the college on the intersection of immigrant detention and incarceration. After graduating, she accepted a Fulbright grant to live and work in East Kalimantan, Indonesia where she was able to learn about and explore her own identity as a Muslim woman outside of the U.S. context. In particular, she learned new strategies for international coalition building within faith-based movements. Upon returning to the U.S., Anis was awarded a Congressional Fellowship through the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies and worked on federal education, labor and civil rights legislation. Natasha hopes to use her legal education to empower her own communities to effectively advocate to public authorities, and to empower movements to create their own systems of change and mutual aid.
Sinjita Bhattacharya aspires to become a public interest disability rights lawyer, dedicated to challenging ableism and breaking down barriers for marginalized communities. The older sister of an autistic sibling and a disabled person herself, Bhattacharya’s lived experience has made her intimately aware of both the world of injustice and inequality faced by the disabled community and the transformative power of law as both a tool for justice and barrier used to oppress marginalized communities.
Bhattacharya graduated summa cum laude from Hofstra University in 2023, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology (high honors) with minors in Disability Studies and Civic Engagement. Prior to law school, Bhattacharya directed programs for an anti-ableist sibling empowerment organization and advocated for disabled students on her college campus. She has worked with Disability Rights New Jersey and Saidel Law, a low-bono firm providing assistance to disabled veterans.
Beyond her professional experiences, Bhattacharya brings her personal journey with disability, her identity as a woman of color and her experiences as the daughter of immigrants to inform her perspective as a future lawyer. Intersectionality lies at the heart of Bhattacharya’s advocacy and her commitment to abolition underscores her dedication to seeking transformative solutions toward collective liberation where attorneys can play a role of harm reduction in the movement for social justice. “Being a Gates Scholar is an extraordinary opportunity that will allow me to fulfill my dream of helping those at society's margins, especially those who cannot afford legal representation,” Bhattacharya said. “I hope to become the kind of lawyer I wish my family had access to— one who can empathize with folks’ lived experiences while leveraging legal expertise to support those most marginalized in our society.”
Sue Han’s dedication to public interest law stems from her lived experience growing up as an immigrant in San Diego, CA. As an undergraduate at UCLA, Han studied Linguistics & Spanish and worked within schools, courthouses, prisons and non-profit organizations to facilitate access to justice for Spanish and Korean-speaking low-income Los Angelenos. Han also had the opportunity to research transnational human rights issues in Santiago, Chile. Post-graduation, she contributed to a comprehensive research project at UCSD on community-led diversion in national juvenile justice reform. Most recently, Han worked as an immigration legal intern to assist undocumented domestic violence victims in filing for immigration status. “I have seen that the legal system can be a dehumanizing place for the most vulnerable and under-resourced communities, such as immigrants; women and children; and QTBIPOC, low-income, incarcerated, and disabled folks. As an aspiring lawyer, I am guided by a mission for human dignity and integrity, and I hope to uplift communities directly impacted by the violence and injustices of our legal system.”
Véronique Harris comes from a family of blue-collar Black, white, and Filipino laborers. Through her lived experiences, she learned about the intersection of race, class, education, environmental racism, and health disparities, and felt called to fight them at a young age. At age 14, Véronique began volunteering with the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and was named the ACLU Youth Activist of the Year in 2016 for her dedication to civil rights. After graduating from Franklin High School in 2019, Véronique pursued her Bachelor of Arts from Oberlin College, where she double majored in Africana Studies and Law and Society and minored n Politics. While at Oberlin, Véronique was an active member of Students for a Free Palestine and co-founded the organization Coronavirus Oberlin Mutual Aid which raised and distributed over $60,000 to Oberlin students in need of financial support during the pandemic. In December 2020, Véronique mobilized her network back in Washington to demand that her former high school, Juanita, change their confederate Rebel mascot. Following a successful social media campaign and petition which garnered over 10,000 signatures, the district officially changed the mascot along with the policy which allowed students to vote on mascot changes, thus preventing the majority from being able to harm minoritized students. The following summer, Véronique worked as a legal intern for the Law Offices of Vonda M. Sargent where she assisted with high profile police violence cases around Washington.
Véronique is beyond grateful for being selected as a Gates Scholar and is excited to give back to the state she calls home. She plans to continue to fight for working class Black and Brown families while advocating for police abolition, healthcare for all, environmental justice, rematriation of Indigenous lands, and ultimately, the radical reimagining of our economic and political system in the United States.
Rotceh Vazquez-Guzman, a first-generation college graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Deaf Studies from Boston University, is on a mission to break down barriers to legal representation for Spanish-speaking, Deaf, and other underserved communities. Her background includes serving as an immigration intern for Senator Elizabeth Warren and most recently working at Orlando Center for Justice, a nonprofit legal services organization. Raised in Tijuana, Mexico, and later moving to a small town in Colorado, she witnessed firsthand the struggles of low-income Latino families and limited access to affordable legal representation in rural areas. This inspired her to become a voice for the voiceless, advocating for her community and addressing the disparities her family experienced. She aims to combine her passion for American Sign Language (ASL) and immigration law to continue championing the rights of marginalized groups, particularly those in rural areas.