UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Public Interest Law Fund (PILF) hosted its 17th annual auction to benefit students of Penn State Law in University Park on Thursday, February 23, at Toftrees Golf Resort. Student efforts raised over $10,000 that will contribute to summer stipends for students to work in unpaid public interest positions.
“Seeing the Penn State Law community come together to support the Public Interest Law Fund was truly inspiring,” said Victor Romero, interim dean of Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs, Maureen B. Cavanaugh Distinguished Faculty Scholar, and professor of law. “Everyone was eager to participate and support a cause that will benefit our students and the legal community.”
Students bid at PILF auction.
Katherine Ryalls, a third-year law student and president of PILF, explained the importance of the PILF auction and the opportunities it provides for students. “Many public interest opportunities for law students are unpaid, making them inaccessible to those who may have significant student debt or other financial obligations. However, PILF Fellowships help to bridge this gap, providing our law students with the resources and financial support needed to take on these vital positions.”
Ryalls added that the funds raised at the annual PILF Auction help to cover the costs of travel, housing, and other expenses associated with working in public interest law, allowing students to gain valuable experience while also making a meaningful impact on underserved communities.
Katherine Ryalls, president of PILF.
“By supporting these fellowships, we are not only helping to create opportunities for students to gain valuable experience, but we're also making a difference in the lives of people across the nation who desperately need legal aid and service. The PILF Auction is a key way that our community comes together to support these important causes, and it's an event that truly makes a difference in the lives of Penn State Law students and those they are able to serve through their public interest internship opportunities,” said Ryalls.
Emceed by Chase Youngman, a third-year law student, the auction had multiple high-bidding items, with some standing out as student favorites. Notable bids included walking through the Penn State Arboretum with Kit Kinports, Polisher Family Distinguished Faculty Scholar and professor of law; and Indian cooking lessons with Gopal Balachandran, assistant professor of clinical law, director of the externships program, and director of the Criminal Appellate & Post-Conviction Services Clinic. Some students bid upward of $600 for these events. Blake Konkol, a third-year law student, said, “Seeing the students bid so highly for professor events showed the love that the student body has for the faculty here. Everyone contributing to a good cause and having a blast with each other makes the auction magic!”
Another popular bidding item was a game night for five to six students with Jud Mathews, associate dean for academic affairs, professor of law, professor of political science in the College of Liberal Arts, and affiliate professor in the School of International Affairs. Since Mathews returned to Penn State Law this year after taking a sabbatical, students from each class year were excited to be participating in the bid.
Penn State Law students supporting the PILF auction.
Ryalls said, “Auction paddles were flying up so quickly that our wonderful emcee, Chase Youngman, was flying through them as students outbid each other over and over again for so many great auction items from our law school’s faculty and staff. One auction item that really stood out was Dean Mathews’! It was a special moment to have Dean Mathews in attendance at the auction, and his generosity and commitment to supporting PILF made a tremendous difference. The fact that the 1L class was so eager to bid on the item was a testament to the incredible respect and appreciation they have for [him]. All in all, it was a wonderful moment that brought the law school community together and reminded us of the deep bonds of connection and support that define our community.”
Faculty and staff also participated in the event. Susan Bogart, financial aid director at Penn State Law, performed at the auction, serenading the audience with two songs on her ukulele. One song centered around the events that have happened in the past year at Penn State Law and the other was about her “money wise tip of the week,” a weekly email she sends to students regarding financial advice.
Susan Bogart performs on her ukelele.
Ryalls said it was heartwarming to see so many faculty and staff members in attendance, bidding on items, and showing their unwavering support for PILF and the important work they do for students at Penn State Law. “Their presence was a powerful reminder of the deep commitment and investment that they have in our law students’ success, and it was clear that they were there not just as colleagues, but as members of a close-knit community that shares a common purpose and vision,” she said.
The success of the event means that Penn State Law students will be able to take public interest jobs for the upcoming summer without worrying about expenses. Past recipients of PILF Fellowships in 2022 include law students Morgan Erickson; Hannah Chapple; Ava McCartin; and Ellen Chandler, who all gained valuable experiences during their summer fellowship programs across the country.
- Erickson, a second-year law student, interned in the Innocence Program at the Committee for Public Counsel Services in Boston, MA, which works to overturn wrongful convictions. Erickson screened applications from inmates claiming innocence and did a holistic deep dive into cases that were often decades old to search for viable innocence claims and any new evidence that could be used to apply for a motion for a new trial.
- Chapple, a second-year law student, interned for the Denver City Attorney’s Office, in their Human Services Legal Services division. Chapple completed work concerning child and adult welfare and had the opportunity to prepare for hearings and appellate oral arguments with counsel.
- McCartin, a second-year law student, worked as an appellate intern in the Rhode Island Public Defender's Office, where she collaborated with the division on small and large projects. McCartin sat in on court proceedings, met with incarcerated clients, and drafted appellate briefs. McCartin wrote a pre-brief that was filed in the RI State Supreme Court.
- Chandler, a second-year law student, worked as a Law Clerk at the Federal Public Defender's Office for the Western District of New York. Chandler was in their Rochester office.
Ryalls acknowledged the camaraderie and unity of Penn State Law students, faculty, and staff demonstrated that night despite the uncertainty of Penn State Law’s future.
“Penn State Law came together that evening to support one another and to make a difference. It was truly heartwarming to see the outpouring of generosity and support from everyone who attended. People were bidding generously, laughing, and having fun, all while knowing that the money raised would be used to support fellow students. It was a powerful testament to the values that define our law school community: compassion, generosity, and a commitment to making a positive impact in the world. All in all, it was a wonderful night that left me feeling grateful for the incredible people and community that make up our law school,” she said.