Two members of the Class of 2020 at the University of Virginia School of Law — Manal Cheema of Sharon, Massachusetts, and Suzanne Deuster of Milwaukee, Wisconsin — are recipients of the inaugural Virginia Public Service Scholarship.
The new scholarship is for students who aspire to serve others by pursuing careers in public service. The scholarship provides full tuition to two or more first-year law students, and has been funded by a grant through the University of Virginia’s Strategic Investment Fund. Scholars are selected based on their commitment to practicing as public service attorneys immediately after graduation, academic excellence and potential for leadership.
“Manal and Suzy are everything we’d hoped for in our inaugural Virginia Public Service Scholars,” said Assistant Dean for Public Service Annie Kim, director of the Mortimer Caplin Public Service Center. “Incredibly accomplished, smart and passionate, these two women have deep interests in public service that will take them far in the years ahead.”
Cheema and Deuster will complete individualized projects that will set the tone for future recipients. Winners of the scholarship are also automatically admitted to the Program in Law and Public Service, which offers intensive training to a select group of UVA Law students seeking to work in the public interest. The program has graduated six classes since it was launched by UVA President-elect Jim Ryan ’92, a former professor at the Law School.
Cheema, who graduated summa cum laude with a major in political science from Tufts University, has worked as an immigration specialist for U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s office, where Cheema handled immigration complaints; a consumer complaint mediator in the office of Massachusetts Attorney General; a special victims unit intern in the Norfolk District Attorney’s Office assisting with sexual assault cases; and, most recently, a congressional support fellow at the Pentagon.
Cheema said a law degree will help her to serve others and empower marginalized communities. She said her service-mindedness comes from her life experiences as the child of first-generation Pakistani immigrants who placed a high value on putting the needs of others before their own.
“Public service is a way to honor my heritage and my parents’ sacrifices,” she said.
She will be the first in her family to go into law. She is interested in working in national security or military law after graduation.
Deuster’s previous experience includes working as a paralegal in the office of the Wisconsin solicitor general; an investigation assistant at the Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation; a researcher and public relations officer for Wisconsin state Sen. Chris Larson; a legal journalist for the Wisconsin Women’s Network; and a law clerk with Community Justice Inc., a nonprofit law firm for low-income clients.
She earned her bachelor’s in legal studies and criminal justice from University of Wisconsin.
“I am eager to pursue a career in public service because the work presents opportunities to direct the future of the administration of justice,” Deuster said.
Of specific interest to her is how technological innovations and social science can provide insights into problems in the criminal justice system. She said there is a need for more modern, evidence-based procedures in the courtroom, citing the unreliability of eyewitness testimony and certain forensic methods, such as bite marks and hair analysis, as barriers.
“Many attorneys seem to regard science and technology as antithetical to the practice of law, but I believe an understanding of these fields, particularly where the empirical research is in tension with legal rules, is essential,” Deuster said.
Deuster said she hopes to further her interdisciplinary studies while at the Law School and become involved with UVA’s Institute of Law, Psychiatry & Public Policy, led by Professor Richard Bonnie.
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.