Kate Uyeda of the San Francisco Bay Area is the Garrison Social Justice Scholar for the Class of 2022. Uyeda’s selection was announced by Assistant Dean for Public Interest Spring Miller.
“kate is a talented and passionate advocate who, through her leadership, has already made her mark on the Law School’s public interest community. We look forward to seeing where her energy and commitment to social justice work take her next,” Miller said.
The Garrison Social Justice Scholarship program supports students who intend to practice public interest law. Garrison Scholars receive a supplemental annual scholarship for their second and third years of law school and stipend support to allow them to pursue unpaid legal work with public interest organizations during the two summers prior to graduation. The scholarship is endowed by Amy Price Garrison (BA’79) and Frank M. Garrison ’79 (BA;76) through the Amy and Frank Garrison Social Justice Fund and awarded each spring to a member of the current 1L class.
This summer Uyeda is working for the Fair Elections Center, a Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan nonprofit organization that works to remove barriers to registration and voting and to improve election administration. “I came to law school with the intention of doing voting rights work, and there’s a lot of work to be done!” she said. “I worked as a field organizer after college and realized that, with a law degree, I can continue to work closely with people and clients and also have a structural impact.”
Uyeda was the Seldin-Kuester Summer Fellow at the Youth Sentencing and Reentry Project in Philadelphia in summer 2020. “I took Professor Terry Maroney’s Juvenile Justice class as my first-year elective and wanted to learn more about how the juvenile justice system actually works,” she said.
“YSRP works with young people charged with crimes serious enough that they could be transferred into adult court. Public defenders don’t always have the capacity to really get to know the young people they represent, so part of my work there involved interviewing our clients’ family and teachers and developing reports that portrayed the young person as a full human, and not just a name on a charging sheet.”
As a 2L, Uyeda externed during the semester with the ACLU of Tennessee, where her work supported impact litigation on a range of issues. “This is my first time living in the South, and I was able to learn about and work on Tennessee-specific issues, including voting rights work,” she said.
She chose Vanderbilt Law School because of its size, location and public interest program. “I went to a state university with 45,000 students on campus, so I knew I wanted a small-school experience for law school,” she said. “I love my small classes, and I’ve been able to build relationships with professors at Vanderbilt.”
Uyeda’s mini-note won the Vanderbilt Law Review’s 2020 Best Write-On Mini-Note Award, and she will serve as one of the Journal’s Notes Editors as a 3L. “The prompt asked us to analyze whether public conduct ordinances violate the Eighth Amendment rights of people experiencing homelessness.”
“The summer stipend support from the Garrison Social Justice Scholarship is an enormous weight off my back, and I’m also incredibly grateful for the additional tuition support,” Uyeda said.
As a 2L, Uyeda was president of Law Students for Social Justice and vice president of the Women Law Students Association. She has also served on the VLS Racial Justice Student Task Force and as a co-facilitator of the student-led Summer 2021 Critical Race Theory Reading Group. As a 3L, she will also serve as the director of strategic engagement for a new student organization, the Voting Rights & Advocacy Society.
Uyeda earned her undergraduate degree with a dual major in Political Science and Society and the Environment at the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to law school, she worked as an Account Executive for Fenton Communications in Washington, D.C., and as a field organizer for the Hillary for America campaign in 2016.