varsha_govindaraju-200x300Robinson Center alumna, Varsha Govindaraju, is one of five recipients of the Gates Public Service Law Scholarship, awarded by the University of Washington School of Law.

The Gates PSL Scholarship was founded in 2005 by a gift from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in honor of UW Law alumnus and public service advocate William H. Gates '50. A full scholarship is awarded each year to five first-year students in exchange for five years of practice in public service law following graduation. The Scholars are selected through a competitive review process that includes assessments from faculty and public service leaders including local lawyers and judges.

Growing up in two very different cultures, Varsha Govindaraju found herself caught between different ideas of success, gender and parenting. Within her community, she observed disrespect and violence against women, children and queer individuals, but it was coming to the University of Washington as an undergraduate that began her journey to culturally competent advocacy. Her aim: to break the cycles of violence for victims of gender-based violence.

Govindaraju, who completed her undergraduate degree by age eighteen, has wasted no time in working to become that advocate. She volunteered as an undergraduate Legal Financial Obligations intern at Columbia Legal Services Institutions Project; served as the Director of Diversity Efforts at the Associated Students of the University of Washington; and acted as the Assistant Director of Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Activists (SARVA) where she hosted events and workshops that focused on healthy relationships and preventing abuse.

Currently in Cambodia, Govindaraju works as a Project Assistant for the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center, learning about rural intervention strategies and how to provide culturally-competent services for women and children.

Govindaraju plans to work in a public interest law firm after graduation. “With my background working to prevent and serve victims of gender-based violence, I hope to continue serving that community with a focus on those facing multiple forms of disenfranchisement such as the low income and homeless community.”

For Govindaraju, the Gates Public Service Law Program will allow her to work in public service alongside a dedicated community. “Public service means identifying needs of communities or groups through immersion or in depth of understanding, and working to solve those issues in an informed and ethical way,” said Govindaraju. “For me, this means using my background as an Indian American woman to understand my own culture and experiences, and move that into advocacy for my own community.”

Read more on the Gates Scholars Class of 2016 HERE.