MSU Law student receives prestigious fellowship

Michigan State Law student Erin Hankins Diaz was recently awarded a Skadden Fellowship to fund two years of work as a public interest attorney. She will work at Michigan Protection and Advocacy Services to represent low-income Detroit families whose children have disabilities to ensure they are receiving an appropriate public education.

Diaz is among an elite group of 28 third-year law students and recent law graduates from across the nation who will devote the next two years to public interest work. She is the second MSU Law graduate in the past three years to be named a Skadden Fellow.

"It’s a great honor for Erin, as well as for MSU Law," Dean Joan Howarth said. "Her work exemplifies MSU Law’s commitment to community service."

The highly-selective Skadden Fellowship Program, described as "a legal Peace Corps" by The Los Angeles Times, was established to provide funding for graduating law students who wish to devote their professional lives to providing legal services to the disadvantaged, the elderly, the homeless and the disabled, as well as those deprived of their civil or human rights.

Fellows design and execute their own public interest project with sponsoring organizations. The 2015 class of Skadden Fellows will work in 10 states, tackling issues ranging from achieving economic stability for homeless veterans to providing human trafficking survivors with community resources.

Diaz’s project hits close to home.

"The city of Detroit is emerging from bankruptcy, but the school district is a separate entity," MSU Law Professor Kristi Bowman said. "Public education in Detroit has not yet turned around. The project Erin proposed to the Skadden Foundation—representing Detroit parents whose children aren't receiving the special education services they deserve under law, and educating parents and other community members about those rights — is the type of approach that will pay off for years by helping ensure the success of vulnerable students, thus keeping them in school, and making it more likely that they graduate and become productive members of our society."

"The Skadden Foundation has a remarkable track record of launching attorneys into meaningful public interest careers. Erin is a great selection, and I’m proud that she’ll carry on this legacy," said MSU Law Professor David Thronson, a 1995 Skadden Fellow.