Heather Scavone: public interest lawyer, advocate and teacher

The assistant professor of law received the 2015 Periclean Award for Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility for her work with the Elon School of Law Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic.

Personally and professionally, Heather Scavone, assistant professor of law and director of the Elon School of Law Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic, embodies the values of civic engagement and social responsibility.

“She is extraordinarily gifted at imparting these values upon her students, and Heather’s commitment to social justice has helped to transform many of her students into global citizens and informed leaders motivated by concern for the common good,” a colleague says.

Prior to joining Elon, Scavone directed the statewide Immigration Legal Services program of Lutheran Family Services in the Carolinas, which provided representations 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 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 it 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 colleauge says.

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.”

“As a public interest lawyer who has devoted her life to advocacy on behalf of refugees and asylum seekers, and as a teacher who cultivates in her students the desire to increase access to justice by the most vulnerable members of society, Heather is an excellent choice for this year’s award,” a colleague says.

Scavone is the 13th recipient of the Periclean Award for Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility, which is given each year to a member of Elon’s faculty or staff whose community service exemplifies the ideals of Project Pericles.

Coming up next week: a profile on Janet Myers, winner of this year’s Ward Family Excellence in Mentoring Award.