Ask them what they're doing this summer, and you won't get a tepid response. They're among the "woke" generation, and they're fired up about doing their part for civil rights.

Cassondra "CJ" Murphy and Jennifer "Jeni" Popp are two University of Virginia School of Law students who will gain experience promoting legal rights as Katherine and David deWilde '67 Public Interest Summer Fellows.

"I think now is a really important time to do this meaningful work," said Murphy, of Auburn, New York, who will be an intern at Lambda Legal in New York. "Not only does the LGBTQ community still face pervasive discrimination in many areas, but much of the progress of the past decade is being threatened."

During her internship, Murphy will spend much of her time focused on impact litigation. She will conduct legal research, draft memoranda and pleadings, and work on projects that help prepare and litigate cases. She'll also speak with and provide resources to those facing discrimination by taking field calls through Lambda's help desk.

Popp, a former high school English teacher in New Orleans, will return to her hometown this summer to intern with the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego & Imperial Counties. In addition to education issues, she will work on cases supporting the rights of prisoners and immigrants

"I came to law school to combat the aspects of the justice system that dehumanized my students and subjugated the community in which I taught," Popp said. "To me, lawyering to defend civil rights means acting as a tool by which people who have been demeaned in this way can reclaim the rights and power owed to them by our governmental institutions."

Popp said she is particularly excited to get to work on Cancino Castellar v. Kelly, a class-action lawsuit challenging the extended detention of undocumented immigrants without due process protections.

The deWilde Fellowships provide up to $10,000 per year — "in order to promote the protection of civil liberties, human rights and the rule of law." All UVA Law students enrolled in their first or second year who will be working full-time in internships that span the duration of the summer are eligible to apply.

The latest recipients said the fellowship is important not just for the money it provides, but for the message it sends.

"It serves as a signal that pursuing civil rights work is something to be valued," Popp said.

Murphy said that the fellowship is a great form of encouragement.

"The deWildes' dedication to the advancement of LGBTQ rights and public service in general is truly inspiring," she said.


Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.