Heather Scavone recognized for exemplary civic engagement and social responsibility
Elon Law Professor Heather Scavone, director of the law school's Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic, is the 2015 recipient of Elon University's Periclean Award for Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility.
The Periclean Award for Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility, along with Periclean Scholars and Service Sabbatical programs at Elon University, responds to the vision of Eugene M. Lang and the Eugene M. Lang Foundation to advance the level of civic engagement and social responsibility of the entire campus community. The Periclean Award honors those who provide exemplary role models for both students and for other faculty and staff.
Tim Peeples, associate provost for faculty affairs, presented the award to Scavone at Elon University's annual faculty-staff awards luncheon, saying that Elon and the broader community greatly benefit from her dedication to service.
“This year’s recipient of the Periclean Award for Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility is a deeply committed public interest lawyer who has devoted her life to advocacy on behalf of refugees and asylum seekers,” Peeples said. “She is an outstanding teacher who cultivates in her students the desire to increase access to justice for the most vulnerable members of society.”
Personally and professionally, Heather Scavone, assistant professor of law and director of Elon Law's Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic, embodies the values of civic engagement and social responsibility.
Prior to joining Elon, Scavone directed the statewide Immigration Legal Services program of Lutheran Family Services (LSF) in the Carolinas, which provided representation to hundreds of refugees and those seeking political asylum. When LSF announced plans to eliminate programs in the Triad, Scavone approached the university about adding the clinic to meet an overwhelming community need and to further the professional development of Elon Law students.
Since the clinic opened in 2010, more than 1,600 refugees and asylum seekers have been served under Scavone’s leadership, and it is one of North Carolina’s most prolific nonprofit immigration legal services providers.
“Through the inception of the of the Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic, Elon was able to successfully dovetail the mutual goals of legal skills development and community service into a clinical program that simultaneously broadens the global perspective of law students, increases their post-graduation employment prospects, and serves the community,” a colleague says.
Scavone says that Elon students who serve in the clinic benefit from “a perspective shift that is informed by their clients’ suffering.” Through the work at the clinic, students learn empathy towards others, and the experience creates in many of them desire to practice public interest law.
In addition to the clinic and the classroom, Scavone’s commitment to civic engagement and social responsibility is clear. “Only a few weeks ago during March 2015, Scavone led a group of six law students on an alternative Spring Break trip to represent immigrant women and children detained in a South Texas immigration detention center. The trip, which was envisioned and proposed by the students, was funded exclusively through the fundraising efforts of Scavone and her students,” a colleague says. She has since shed light on the obstructions to due process she encountered at this detention center, in interviews on National Public Radio programs “The State of Things” (WUNC) and “Charlotte Talks” (WFAE).
Scavone is the board chair of the New Arrivals Institute, a regional nonprofit that assists refugees. For the past four years, she has organized an immigration law seminar to increase opportunities for public interest lawyers, including Elon alumni, to receive immigration legal training. She has worked one-on-one with students to identify professional development opportunities during and after law school, and she has proposed and received approval for an interdisciplinary service-learning study abroad opportunity titled, “Ethiopia and Greensboro: Refugees and Human Rights.”
Scavone is the 13th recipient of the Periclean Award for Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility. She received the award at Elon University's annual faculty-staff awards luncheon, where other faculty and staff were recognized for outstanding teaching, scholarship, service and mentoring.