Marilyn Hajj, a 2025 S.J.D. candidate who studies tax law through the lens of poverty relief, has been awarded a 2022-23 international doctoral fellowship from the American Association of University Women.
Hajj, a native of Lebanon, is in her third year of S.J.D. studies at the University of Virginia School of Law. Since 1917, the AAUW has provided support for women pursuing full-time graduate or postdoctoral study in the United States who intend to return to their home country to pursue a professional career.
The fellowship, as Hajj described it, provides her a “lifeline” and rewards her lifelong commitment to improving women’s lives.
“Whatever the debate — political, academic or religious — I always challenge the sexist status quo that wants us to shut up and take it,” she said.
Hajj specializes in U.S. tax law, and her current research focuses on taxation and poverty relief, which she said has gained renewed importance with the COVID-19 pandemic. Her interdisciplinary, comparative approach is influenced by her own experience with hyperinflation — working three jobs to earn the equivalent of $150 per month — and studying French law, she said. (As a former French mandate, Lebanon has a legal system heavily influenced by French law and the Napoleonic Code.)
“While my work is about tax, it is also heavily influenced by economics, sociology, philosophy and history,” she said. “Aside from my thesis, I am working on publishing a paper regarding the complexity of tax law and what makes it so inaccessible to laymen.”
“I have been blessed to meet people from all corners of the globe,” Hajj said of her time at UVA. “It has been an unparalleled experience to learn about their cultures and legal backgrounds and to teach them about my part of the world. The cultural contrast was even more interesting in a classroom setting since it led to me having some exciting debates with classmates and professors in my tax classes.”
An S.J.D. degree offers one path to becoming a law professor or academic, either in the U.S. or abroad. Aside from her doctoral work, Hajj served as a Civil Law instructor from 2020-22 for first-year students at Université Saint Joseph de Beyrouth, where she obtained her bachelor’s in French and Lebanese law and her master’s in corporate law. She taught alongside Lebanon’s former minister of justice and has been the youngest law instructor at the university and one of the youngest in the country. The fellowship has since funded her return to her studies in Charlottesville.
Being a law professor is not only about pushing young adults to question their surroundings, she said, but helping students build a community to improve their law school experience.
“It is my dream to continue researching, writing and teaching,” she said, “and to be able to make a career out of it would be surreal.”
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.