Scholars for Justice see law degree as the next step in creating social change

September 6, 2022
Meg Rutherford, Tsechu Dolma
Meg Rutherford (left) and Tsechu Dolma

Both Meg Rutherford and Tsechu Dolma were dedicated organizers, working to create positive change in their communities, when they realized that even greater social good could be accomplished with a law degree.

Rutherford helped create a group to combat sexual harassment and assault among student athletes. Dolma worked to create economic opportunities for struggling farmers in Nepal. While their passions are different, they found the same next step in their paths by coming to Seattle University School of Law.

The two students are the 2022 Scholars for Justice, a three-year full scholarship for outstanding law students committed to working in the public interest.

“I know what I’m passionate about, but I needed more tools in my tool belt,” Rutherford said, in describing her motivation for coming to law school. “I know how to get people excited about a cause, but I also need to understand how to create structural change.”

As a University of Washington student and a member of the women’s rowing team, Rutherford was spurred to action in 2017 when some of her teammates were harassed and assaulted.

She and other rowers formed Student Athletes Against Sexual Harassment and Assault to offer outreach and educational presentations to other teams on campus, as well as youth sports teams in the community. She graduated from UW with a degree early childhood development in 2020.

Her interest in social justice deepened after spending two years working in Boston Public Schools through the City Year AmeriCorps program.

“The transformational nature of service has taught me that people do not need saving,” she said. “They need healing, collaboration, and liberation through equitable policy building and culturally responsive advocacy.”

Similarly, Dolma was inspired to seek a law degree after working in economic development for 10 years. She grew up in a Tibetan refugee camp in Nepal and later collaborated with childhood friends to create a nonprofit called the Mountain Resiliency Project, which uses agriculture and technology to help displaced female farmers in Nepal.

“Income alone is not enough for our families to move forward,” Dolma said. “They also need legal protection. They need safe pathways and protection of their civil liberties.” For example, she said, the farmers’ income doubled but due to caste and gender, they still could not open bank accounts.

Dolma’s family fled political persecution in Nepal and moved to Queens, New York, when she was in middle school. Over time, she realized that she could use the privilege of her U.S. education and her lived experience in Asia to be a bridge between the two worlds.

“I’m looking forward to studying international human rights here and learning more about immigration law in the U.S. and other countries and what migrant human rights look like,” she said. “Seattle U is the best place for that because of our connection to Asia.”

She also saw firsthand how important legal protections were for the multicultural community she knew as a teenager in Queens. She and other immigrant kids were regularly pulled from school to help loved ones fill out forms for food stamps, Medicaid, and immigration.

“This glimpse into the legal world solidified my lifelong mission to protect my family, neighbors, and community,” she said.

Dolma graduated from Barnard College in 2013, followed by a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University in 2015. It was during this time that she returned to Nepal to start the nonprofit.

In 2020, she earned a master’s in business administration at Oxford University.

Every degree has been in the interest of being a better advocate for the farmers in Nepal through legal resources and an entrepreneurial spirit. “I am pursuing a legal education in public interest law to grow into a more effective leader with the grit, vision, and advocacy skills to be a steward to my community and environment,” she said.

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