1. What did you enjoy most about your time at EB and why?
I attended EB all the way through, from Pre-K to eight grade. So there are many enjoyable experiences to pick from. For one, I enjoyed the deep immersion in a different language and culture. (I still dream in French, so clearly the immersion is deep!) It has given me a more expansive view of the world and my role in it. Indeed, my time at EB meant much more than learning a language in a technical sense. At EB, students are treated as the intellectual equivalent of adults. Thanks to this pedagogical philosophy, the EB curriculum exposed me to foundational questions about identity, morality, and mortality through French literature and poetry. It’s rare for schools to have young students grapple with deep life questions, but it’s so important. My EB experience is precious to me because of more than academics,
though. I made lifelong friends, and am still very close with a group of women from my year. We’re more like sisters, really. EB friends are the ones you call when you lose a parent, and the friends you Zoom with to meet new babies during a pandemic.
2. Please describe your current work/studies.
I wear two professional hats. First, I’m a Deputy Attorney General in the Office of the California Attorney General’s Public Rights Division. I conduct investigations and file lawsuits to protect Californians, with a focus on veterans and service members, preventing gun violence, protecting individuals with disabilities, and holding the federal government accountable for following the law. I litigate in both state and federal court, and collaborate with state attorneys general offices across the country. My cases have the reach of class actions—often with millions of dollars at stake—and I play a big role in which are brought and how they are fought. Having a big impact as an individual on communities across my native California is very fulfilling.
Second, I’m a Lecturer at UC Berkeley School of Law. I teach Veterans Law, a specialization I developed over years of representing homeless and low-income veterans in San Francisco. Following equal rights icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s vision of the military as a key battleground for social justice, my Veterans Law course focuses on some of the most pressing issues of our time, including sexual assault, racism, and discrimination against LGBTQ individuals. I also teach Legal Research and Writing to international Master of Law students. My students come from all over the world. They include judges, scholars, general counsel of international companies, and government officials. Teaching such accomplished and diverse students is exciting and humbling. I’m constantly learning from them.
3. How do you feel EB has influenced you or led you towards your choice of profession?
My drive to advance justice as a lawyer derives in good part from EB’s unique mix of Berkeley free spirit activism and academic rigor. Going to school in Berkeley teaches you to recognize inequities and to understand your responsibility to try to combat them. And the EB curriculum feeds into this, teaching students to be aware of the world around them, near and far, in all its diversity, and to embrace it. EB also gave me an early love of reading and writing, which helped lay the groundwork for my law practice and teaching. EB pushes students to pay close attention to language, to its many layers and meanings. This passion for language—so quintessentially French—is critical to my success as a lawyer. For instance, I remember getting instructions in class one day about which French dictionaries are acceptable and which are not. This is the kind of debate courts have in deciding cases. Moreover, learning the law is like learning a new language, and my EB education gave me a comfort and thirst for this process of growth.
4. What would you say to parents just starting out at EB?
Take advantage of it too! Both my sister and I went to EB. My dad spoke fluent French before we enrolled, having lived in France and Switzerland for many years, and having his daughters at EB gave him a home in a francophone community. He found friends in fellow EB parents, friends he could speak French with, eat good stinky cheeses with, and watch French movies with. Though my mom didn’t speak French when my sister and I started at EB, she learned along with us. She joined a parents’ group that met in the evenings to learn French together. All these years later, she can still hold her own in a French conversation. Overall, I would emphasize to new EB parents that EB is a tight-knit community, not just amongst students and teachers, but also parents. It’s not only students that find community and immersion in another culture, parents experience this, too.
5. Describe your favorite memory from EB.
I have many good memories from EB, and many involve Michael Rossman. As my science teacher, Michael led me and my classmates through reptile dissections and taught us about the secret lives of plants. He was famous for his lost sense of smell, and how little the scents of some of our science projects bothered him, as compared to us students. I enjoyed his class so much that I attended the summer camp he led in Big Sur. I have fond memories of sleeping under the redwoods, baking brownies with the heat of the sun, and getting caught fishing for crawdads. Michael’s love of nature was a guiding force on these trips, and I left with a deeper understanding of the importance of caring for the world around us.
Michael was much more than a science teacher or camp leader. He brought his background as a social justice advocate and one of the leaders of the free speech movement at UC Berkeley in the sixties into the classroom. He strongly encouraged everyone to speak up for themselves, in big and small ways, and to stand up for what they believe in. He also paid close attention to students as individuals. I was a quiet, shy student and I remember him telling me I could be whatever I wanted to be when I grew up. I don’t think I really believed him at the time. But it has since sunk in, and the memory of his belief in me is grounding and motivating. He made especially clear, as a science teacher, that women can be anything, including and especially scientists. This was an important message to hear at a formative age, when other parts of society were saying otherwise. Though I didn’t become a scientist, I like to think I’m living up to Michael’s faith in me by blazing my own path in public interest law.
6. Do you feel that EB adequately prepared you for life after EB? Do you feel you are a citizen of the world?
I feel so lucky to have gone to EB, both professionally and personally. Speaking French has served as a powerful tool in my public interest work. For instance, before law school I worked at a non-profit in the Bronx in New York that serves French-speaking immigrant women from West Africa. Because of my fluency in French, I was able to communicate with these women directly when almost no one else could, to help them access critical services and to support their immigration cases. And my EB education still supports what I do today. My exposure to another language and other ways of living and thinking through EB makes me a better teacher to my international students at UC Berkeley School of Law. In addition to being able to speak French with my (many) French-speaking students, I know what it feels like to have one leg in another culture. This helps me understand my students’ personal experiences in the classroom and connect with them in a richer way. So ultimately, EB has made me a citizen of the world wherever I am. Even now, having made it full circle back home to the Bay Area, after having lived and worked in many states and countries.
7. Would you consider sending your children to EB? Why?
Absolutely. EB’s intimate community is a great place to grow up in, especially in contrast to the growing disconnection and alienation of modern times. EB is like a small village, with deep connections to the bigger city of Berkeley and the larger world. Moreover, fluency in French is an asset in so many ways, even if you don’t move to a French-speaking country or go into a field that uses French. I’ve found French and being bilingual generally is a great springboard for other languages. It helped me a lot in learning Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese, for instance. The less tangible experience of living in two cultures also helps you see outside yourself, and to better connect with and embrace others. This is good for being a lawyer, teacher, doctor, artist, investor, writer, whatever your children might grow up to be.
8. Anything else you would like to add?
I am so honored to have been selected for the Alumni Spotlight Award. As a third grader playing kickball in the EB courtyard or a seventh grader reading Jacques Prévert, I never would have imagined this happening in my wildest dreams. It’s exciting thinking about what surprises the future holds for the coming generations of EB students. In attending EB graduation this year to speak, the real treat for me was hearing from the graduating students. They spoke with honesty and insight about how difficult the pandemic has been. And with optimism for the future. As I told students in my speech, I can’t wait to see what they’ll do as future citizens of the world.