Meet Kelsey Rwayitare, ’14

Kelsey Rwanda1      Kelsey R1

Hometown: Clear Lake, IA

Undergraduate Institution: University of Iowa

Undergraduate Degree: History Major, Philosophy Minor

Kelsey Rwayitare, a University of Iowa third year law student, knew from the start of her law school experience she wanted to dedicate her career to those without access to basic human rights – and now she is well on her way.

Last summer she was granted the opportunity to clerk for the Rwandan Supreme Court writing memoranda, conducting research, and helping the Justice write opinions. Some of Rwayitare’s work included editing Civil Procedure Regulations for the Chief Justice and working on court reform with the Inspector General.

“I have the opportunity to help lay the groundwork for a judicial system growing in public trust, and I could not be more excited,” she said.

Rwayitare applied for the position through Chief Justice Rugege and received an offer. She then proceeded to apply for funding through the University of Iowa and received an EJF grant, the Cmiel Human Rights Funded Internship, and the Annette Stewart travel stipend. She left for Rwanda June 6 and will returned the United States August 10.

The experience taught her how to function in a court system different from the United States and helped her gain a broader sense of how the law works and grow her ability to identify strengths and weaknesses in a wide variety of legal settings, she said, adding it also helped her understand the Rwandese culture and act as a springboard for her future career.

“This summer was absolutely a dream come true because it blends all of the things that are important to me,” she said. “My husband is Rwandese, and we decided to come to Rwanda for the summer with our 16-month-old son. This opportunity allowed me to get to know my husband’s culture and grow my legal career.”

Stella Elias, a UI immigration law and civil procedure professors, had Rwayitare as a student in one of her immigration law classes and said she has no doubt the clerkship in Rwanda will provided Rwayitare with rigorous training in legal research and writing and exposed her to many facets of appellate advocacy in a fast-moving and high-pressure environment. It also introduced her to new mentors with whom she may forge life-long professional and personal ties, she said.

“We live in an increasingly connected world, and we work in an increasingly global profession, and this experience will provide Kelsey with skills that she will find invaluable as a 21st century lawyer,” she said.

Elias said she is confident Rwayitare will excel in her clerkship; she has great legal research skills, she is a very good legal writer, and she is a warm and compassionate person.