Five Gregoire Fellows welcome chance to diversify legal profession

September 15, 2022
Sullivan Hall statue artwork

The 2022 class of Gregoire Fellows represent a wide array of life experiences but share a common goal — to bring diversity and fresh perspectives to the legal profession.

The Gregoire Fellows Program, named in honor of former Washington Governor Christine Gregoire, recognizes students for their academic and professional achievements, unique perspectives, and leadership potential to diversify the legal profession in Washington.

Five first-year students at Seattle University School of Law were named Gregoire Fellows: Kali Clark, Gabriela Dionisio, Ania Kamkar, Kalina Spasovska, and Sarah Yoon.

Gregoire Fellows spend the summer after their first year of law school clerking at both a major corporate law firm and either a Seattle-based corporation or government agency.

In addition to summer employment, Gregoire Fellows receive:

  • Seattle U Law scholarship
  • $20,000 first-year summer stipend
  • Mentorship from former Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire and distinguished members of the Seattle legal community
  • $5,000 bar exam study stipend
Kali Clark

For Kali Clark, law school is the result of an “eight-year dream in process.” After graduating from University of Washington in 2015 with a master’s degree in environmental engineering, Clark was drawn to a career in public service. Building on her previous experience leading inmate forest fire crews, she served for nine years as a policy adviser with the Washington Department of Natural Resources on forest management and other issues.

She also worked on COVID-19 response planning at the Federal Emergency Management Agency for nine months and currently works on emergency plans and preparation for Sound Transit.

Her forestry experience inspired her to run for an open seat on the King County Conservation District Board. Although she wasn’t elected, Clark made a positive impression on enough people that she was later recruited to run for the City Council in Sammamish, where she lives.

As an openly gay woman, she felt the time was right for change. “We’ve been incorporated as a city for 20 years, and in that time, the council has been almost exclusively white straight men,” she said. She was elected to the council, and then elected by her council colleagues to be deputy mayor. When the mayor resigned in June this year, Clark became mayor.

As a Gregoire Fellow, Clark is excited to learn from the fellowship’s namesake.

“Gov. Gregoire was a trailblazer in Washington, especially as an advocate for youth. Having her mentorship would just be incredible,” she said. “I want to continue public service at a higher level, and she’s done that work.”

Gabriela Dionisio

Gabriela Dionisio also spent time working in public service for the City of Seattle before coming to law school. After graduating from Seattle University in 2014 with a degree in public affairs, she initially started her career in the nonprofit sector. Based out of Oakland, California, Dionisio worked with the Asian American Pacific Islander community across the country, advocating for affordable housing for immigrant and low-income communities. Most recently, she worked for the City of Seattle as the grants and contracts manager for the Department of Education and Early Learning.

As the daughter of immigrants from the Philippines, Dionisio said she appreciates that the Gregoire program unlocks some of the mysteries of law school.

“It provides a roadmap for us, which is so important for first-generation law students,” she said. “The tools and resources we get through the program provide invaluable support.”

As a child, Dionisio remembers her parents’ stories of challenges and struggle, which created a desire to become an advocate for immigrants and other marginalized communities.

“I could see how many barriers they faced, and I recognized that the legal system was the way to make change,” she said.

When announcing her plans to attend law school, she discovered that had also been her mother’s dream but was out of reach financially. “That was a huge ‘aha’ moment for me, because I realized I’m not just doing this for me. I’m pursuing intergenerational dreams,” she said.

Ania Kamkar

Ania Kamkar chose law school after working in the music industry in Los Angeles for the Virgin Music Label division of Capitol Music Group.

“I worked as a commercial account manager on the commercial marketing team, and we could handle maybe 90 percent of the questions and concerns from labels, artists, and managers,” she said. “But the serious stuff always went to legal affairs. People revered them as the authorities in the room.”

Kamkar, who is Persian, grew up in Olympia and graduated from University of Washington in 2018 with a degree in political communications and a bounty of arts and entertainment internships under her belt — Universal Music Group, Scooter Braun Projects, and others.

She said she’s found the perfect fit with the Gregoire Fellowship. “I value what the fellowship values, and I’m so happy to feel like there’s a place for me in the legal profession as someone who’s interested in the arts,” she said. “I’m excited to be part of making a difference. Often in large business meetings, the legal team is rarely young, diverse women.”

While working at Capitol Music, Kamkar experienced the thrill of helping artists achieve No. 1 hits and hopes to continue that success as a lawyer. “My goal is to be part of a team that impacts millions of people for the better,” she said.

Kalina Spasovska

Kalina Spasovska grew up in Macedonia (now known as North Macedonia) with dreams of becoming an attorney able to fight for the rights of people who faced discrimination. But when she fled to the United States in 2001, seeking asylum from ethnic persecution in her homeland, she knew she had to tackle a new barrier first — mastering English.

The time finally felt right when a colleague told her he couldn’t tell from her writing that English was her second language.

Spasovska graduated from University of Washington in 2007 with a degree in law, society, and justice, then studied internationally in several European countries as part of the master’s program in human rights policy at London’s University of Roehampton. She worked in human resources and research at various companies for 12 years before law school.

“I always had to work harder as a child because people made certain assumptions about me based on stereotypes due to my dark skin complexion,” she said. “Those experiences made me care about protecting human rights.”

Because her arrival in the United States coincided with a wave of post-9/11 Islamophobia, that determination only grew stronger. She said she welcomes the opportunity to bring diversity to the legal profession through the Gregoire Fellowship.

Sarah Yoon

Sarah Yoon finds inspiration for her legal studies from her parents, who immigrated to the United States from South Korea as teenagers.

Without a firm grasp of English, they felt anxious every time they had to sign legal documents or speak with store clerks. Yoon often served as their interpreter and advocate.

"Those are things that kids don’t normally do, and I always worried that we were being scammed,” Yoon said. “I wanted to be a lawyer to not feel that way, to gain more control.”

Raised in Chicago suburbs, Yoon graduated in 2020 with a degree in economics from nearby Northwestern University.

“I don’t have any connections to lawyers or anyone in the legal field. I’m the first one in my family to pave this path,” she said. “It’s kind of scary, but at the same time it gives me the opportunity to make and learn from my own mistakes. The Gregoire program is meant for people like me.”

Yoon worked for two years at the risk management company Aon before coming to Seattle.

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