Tasia Harris ’23 receives Garrison Social Justice Scholarship

Jul 16, 2021

Tasia Harris of Brooklyn, New York, has been named the Garrison Social Justice Scholar for the Class of 2023. Harris’s selection was announced by Assistant Dean for Public Interest Spring Miller.

“Tasia’s commitment to using her legal education to advance social and racial justice in this country are palpable,” Miller said. “We look forward to seeing where her talent and passion will take her.”

The Garrison Social Justice Scholarship program supports students who intend to practice in the public interest. 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.

Harris is working this summer as a consumer law intern for the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, where her work has focused on supporting low-income clients whose income was negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’m helping clients with limited assets who are facing foreclosures on mortgage debt and other debt collections protect their assets,” she said. “Our clients couldn’t otherwise afford legal assistance, and lots of moratoriums and freezes that protected them during the pandemic are ending.”

Harris had originally planned on a career as a teacher but, after three years of teaching, chose to earn a law degree to gain the tools to advocate for systemic change. “I loved teaching and wanted to teach because I come from a working-class background in Brooklyn and education was my path to economic stability,” she said. “But as a teacher I saw that education and other social  interventions were undermined by a legal system that was not serving marginalized students and people in poverty and made it difficult for them to get on that path.”

She chose Vanderbilt Law specifically because the school offered scholarship support targeted at students seeking public advocacy careers. “A legal education can be cost-prohibitive if you want to do social justice work, and I planned to apply for the Garrison Scholarship coming in,” she said. “Knowing I have financial support for tuition and summers  makes it easier to focus on the work I’m doing for clients and in class and develop my skills in a really meaningful way.”

In addition to her work for D.C. Legal Aid, Harris is also working at the Law School conducting legal research and policy research on issues pertaining to the LGBTQ community. She entered VLS in fall 2020 after teaching for three years in the Baltimore City Public Schools and working at The Madeira School in McLean, Virginia.

As a rising 2L Harris has joined the staff of the Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, and she is the incoming president of Law Students for Social Justice. She is also a Chancellor’s Law Scholar.

Harris earned her M.S. in education at Johns Hopkins University and her B.A. in public policy and sociology with honors and distinction at the University of North Carolina.

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