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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Center for Gender and Refugee Studies Director Karen Musalo Appointed to Bank of America Chair

Professor Musalo oversees groundbreaking work in gender-based asylum cases and the rights of refugees.
Karen Musalo

Karen Musalo

Professor Karen Musalo has been appointed the Bank of America Foundation Chair in International Law for a three-year term.

The immediate past recipient of the Bank of America Foundation Chair in International Law was Professor Naomi Roht-Arriaza, who has been appointed to the Thomas E. Miller Distinguished Professorship, recently vacated upon Professor Geoffrey Hazard’s retirement.

“I am honored to be the recipient of the Bank of America Foundation Chair in International Law,” says Musalo, “and to be the immediate successor to Professor Roht-Arriaza, whose inspiring work has had such notable global impact.  I am grateful for this recognition, and thank my UC Hastings colleagues for valuing and supporting the kind of engaged scholarship that attempts to make concrete contributions to social justice around the world.”

“Karen Musalo conducts some of the most difficult, and essential, international legal work today,” said Provost and Academic Dean Elizabeth Hillman. “She has worked tirelessly for the rights of refugees and other disenfranchised groups around the world, and has made significant advances in gender-based asylum case law. She was a wonderful selection for this Chair, and we are honored to count her among our faculty.”

About Karen Musalo

Karen Musalo is a nationally recognized pioneer in refugee issues. She is lead co-author of Refugee Law and Policy: An International and Comparative Approach (4th edition), and has contributed to the evolving jurisprudence of asylum law through her scholarship, as well as her litigation of landmark cases. Professor Musalo was lead attorney in Matter of Kasinga (fear of female genital cutting as a basis of asylum), the first precedential decision establishing that women fleeing gender-based persecution may be eligible for asylum. Kasinga continues to be cited as authority in gender asylum cases by tribunals from Canada to the United Kingdom to New Zealand.

Professor Musalo represented Rody Alvarado, a Guatemalan woman whose 14-year case was a landmark in the struggle for the right to asylum for women fleeing domestic violence. She also represented Ms. L-R, the asylum seeker from Mexico whose high profile victory broke additional ground in the adjudication of gender asylum. Professor Musalo has been quoted extensively in the media, including the New York Times, Washington Post, The Nation and El Pais, and has been interviewed on other media, such as Nightline, CNN International, The Diane Rehm Show and Talk of the Nation. She was featured in the PBS Documentary, Breaking Free: A Woman's Story, which focuses on Rody Alvarado's case.

Professor Musalo’s work also includes international human rights fact-finding and research. She has traveled extensively in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America – Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras – and published groundbreaking studies of the rise of “femicides” in the region. Currently, the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies that Professor Musalo directs, the Migration & Human Rights Program’s Center of Human Rights at the National University of Lanús in Buenos Aires, and multiple NGO partners in the region are investigating the intersection between migration control laws, policies, and practices and children’s rights and welfare throughout the Central America–Mexico–U.S. corridor with funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. She also co-founded the UC Hastings to Haiti Program and takes delegations of students each fall to Guatemala, El Salvador, or Honduras to do human rights research and meet with local experts.

Professor Musalo is recognized for her innovative work on refugee issues. She was the first attorney to partner with psychologists in her representation of traumatized asylum seekers – a practice that has since become standard – and she edited the first handbook for practitioners on cross-cultural issues and the impact of culture on credibility in the asylum context. She has received numerous advocacy awards for her pioneering legal work, including the 2010 California Lawyer of the Year Award, the 2009 Daily Journal's recognition as one of the "Top 100" lawyers in California, and the American Lawyer's 1997 recognition as one of the forty-five outstanding young public interest lawyers. Professor Musalo is a frequent speaker at conferences and law schools in the United States, and has lectured extensively in Europe and Latin America.

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