Salwa Ahmad and Molly Keck are this year’s recipients of the Virginia Public Service Scholarships, full-tuition awards given to two University of Virginia School of Law students who are pursuing public service careers.
Ahmad earned a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and has worked as program coordinator of global operations at Population Services International, and as a program associate at the Regional Primary Care Coalition in Washington, D.C.
Keck earned a bachelor’s degree from the College of William & Mary and worked as a senior legal assistant with CAIR Coalition’s Detained Children’s Program.
“Molly and Salwa bring a fierce commitment to serving their communities,” said Assistant Dean for Public Service Annie Kim ’99, who directs the Program in Law and Public Service. “Salwa’s work interviewing Syrian refugee women in Jordan, Molly’s work advocating for detained immigrant children in D.C. — these are just a few examples of the experiences they bring to UVA Law. We’re thrilled to welcome them to our public service community.”
The scholarships, launched in 2017 and substantially funded with flagship endowment funds established by Tim ’83 and Lynne Palmer, Dave C. ’93 and Kelly L. Burke, and Ted ’92 and Keryn Mathas (in honor of former Professor Bill Stuntz ’84), are awarded to two first-year students based on their commitment to practicing as public service attorneys immediately after graduation, academic excellence and potential for leadership.
Recipients of the scholarship are 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 began 10 years ago under the guidance of now-UVA President Jim Ryan ’92, a former professor and vice dean at the Law School.
Ahmad, of Dale City, Virginia, said the COVID-19 pandemic has shown how law can influence global health outcomes. A first-generation law student, Ahmad said she wants to use her law degree to protect health rights and saves lives, especially during crises. She plans to study international law and human rights at the Law School in service of that goal.
“I am very excited to attend UVA Law — the collegiality and community that the school fosters will truly make learning feel like a collaborative process between students and faculty,” she said. “I especially appreciate the Law School’s emphasis on public service, and the school’s commitment to actively support and provide guidance to students who would like to use their legal studies in the service of others.”
Keck, of Annandale, Virginia, said her interest in social justice issues grew after watching attorneys in action at CAIR Coalition helping detained immigrant children. She wants to use her law degree to continue working with children, especially in vulnerable communities.
“I know UVA Law School will equip me with the knowledge and skills to forcefully address structural inequalities and effectively advocate for marginalized populations,” she said. “I am incredibly excited to join the tight-knit community the Program in Law and Public Service offers.”
Keck added that she’s looking forward to taking advantage of the program’s opportunities in mentoring from leaders in public service, and in experiential learning.
“As someone who thrives when learning is hands-on, I appreciate the multitude of amazing clinics UVA hosts,” she said.
Previous Public Service Scholars
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.