Dora Duru first became interested in international human rights as a high school student. That led her to major in international relations at Stanford University. When she decided to pursue a law degree, she looked for schools with strong international programs.
She chose Vanderbilt based on her positive experience attending an Admitted Students Day, and her 1L experience has confirmed her first impressions. “Students here are friendly and approachable. While everyone wants to do well, people are open to helping each other succeed, and that’s very valuable,” she said.
As a Vanderbilt 1L, Duru participated in a genocide/atrocity prevention simulation on the crisis in Zimbabwe organized by human rights expert Michael Newton, who teaches Vanderbilt’s International Law Practice Lab, in conjunction with the Vanderbilt Holocaust Lecture Series. Duru played the role of a member of an international non-governmental organization. “That was one of the most meaningful experiences during my first year of law school,” she said. In spring 2018, Duru received the Helen Strong Curry International Legal Scholarship, a two-year scholarship awarded each year to a first-year student who plans to focus their upper-level studies on international law.
Although Duru grew up in Los Angeles, her interest in the field of international law has its roots in her mother’s experience as an immigrant to the U.S. from Nigeria. “My mother lived through the Nigeria-Biafra war as a child,” she said. “When I think about her story, I want to be involved in the international legal field. I have a strong desire to help people who have suffered from conflicts.”
At Stanford, Duru was involved with the Student-led Movement to End Mass Atrocities, known as STAND, which supported initiatives to raise awareness of, respond to and end mass atrocities and campaigns of genocide. She co-led a fundraising initiative for the Darfur Stoves Project, which provided fuel-efficient stoves to families in refugee camps established for people displaced by their country’s internal conflict.
During summer 2018, Duru will travel to Germany and Poland as a fellow with the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics (FASPE) program to analyze the role lawyers played during the Holocaust and work as a legal intern in the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Policy in Washington D.C. She is one of two Vanderbilt Law students to receive the prestigious FASPE fellowship; Katie Sochacki ’18, who plans to join Venable as an associate based in Washington, D.C., after commencement, is also among the 12 law students and early career attorneys to participate in the two-week program.
Duru has enjoyed the academic challenge of law school. “Law school is a lot harder than I imagined, but the hardest aspect is not understanding the material, but making wise choices on how to manage your time effectively,” she said. During her first year, she joined the Christian Legal Society and volunteered with Vanderbilt’s Immigration Law Clinic, where she gained an introduction to asylum law. “My faith informs my entire life, and I wanted to connect with other students who share a similar faith,” she said. “And I am grateful to now have a basic understanding about asylum law as I want to make a difference in the lives of refugees.”