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VANCE CENTER STAFF

ALEXANDER PAPACHRISTOU


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Executive Director
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Alexander Papachristou joined the Vance Center as Executive Director in January 2012. He directs the organization's overall operations and focuses on its programmatic and institutional initiatives, as well as fundraising.

Mr. Papachristou previously was president of the Near East Foundation, a participatory, community-based economic and social development organization working in Arab and African countries. For the preceding 18 years, Mr. Papachristou engaged in cross-border corporate finance in advisory and proprietary roles: he served as managing director and general counsel at NCH Capital, Inc, which invests in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe; he lived in Russia from 1989 to 1993, where he opened and ran the Moscow office of White & Case. Mr. Papachristou also worked in the law firm of Clifford & Warnke in Washington, DC and was policy assistant to New York Governor Mario C. Cuomo. He served as law clerk to US District Judge Myron H. Thompson in the Middle District of Alabama. Mr. Papachristou is a member of the board of the Media Development Investment Fund, as well as the advisory councils of Princeton University's Near East Studies Program and Bard College's Center for Civic Engagement. In late 2011, The New Press published Blind Goddess: A Race and Justice Reader, which Mr. Papachristou edited.

Mr. Papachristou received an LLM and JD from Harvard Law School and an AB from Princeton University, as well as Arabic language training at the American University in Cairo.

 

CLEA BOWDERY


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Staff Attorney,
Environment Program
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Clea Bowdery began working on the Vance Center's Environmental Sustainability Program in the fall of 2011. She develops projects addressing environmental issues in Latin America, Africa, and elsewhere in the world, and is responsible for coordinating law firm pro bono engagement and performing legal work on such projects. She also cultivates and manages relationships with environmental organizations and other partners.

Prior to joining the Vance Center, Ms. Bowdery was an associate at Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP where she worked on litigation, taxation, bankruptcy, and insurance matters, as well as pro bono projects relating to voting rights, LGBT rights, and advice to domestic violence shelters. She has also served as a volunteer attorney at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, where she handled enforcement actions relating to violations of New York's environmental laws and regulations. During law school, she participated in a semester-long honors externship program at the U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the General Counsel (International Affairs Division), where she provided legal support to a U.S. government program that provides technical assistance to other nations to prevent the proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.

Ms. Bowdery holds a J.D. from UCLA School of Law and a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University. She speaks French.

 

MARIE-CLAUDE JEAN-BAPTISTE


 

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Program Director
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Marie-Claude Jean-Baptiste joined the Vance Center in October 2012. She leads the Human Rights and Access to Justice Program at the Vance Center. In this role, Ms. Jean-Baptiste, with support from pro-bono counsels at law firms in the United States and abroad, advises clients on projects related to violence against women, housing rights, transitional justice, prevention of mass atrocities, accountability for grave human rights violations, rights of LGBTI persons, disability rights, and racial discrimination, among others. She engages alongside pro bono counsel in legal research and analysis to support international litigation and advocacy, legal reform, and capacity building in these areas. Ms. Jean-Baptiste works with local and international NGOs and international organizations such as the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Prior to joining the Vance Center, Ms. Jean-Baptiste worked for four years with the International Senior Lawyers Project (ISLP) in New York where, as the Human Rights Program Officer, she developed and managed ISLP's program in Latin America and the Caribbean. At ISLP, Ms. Jean-Baptiste worked with governments, international organizations, and NGOs worldwide providing legal support on human rights and Equitable Economic Development projects. These projects included, among others, capacity building of local lawyers and government officials, international human rights litigation, human rights monitoring, and legislative reform and advocacy.

Ms. Jean-Baptiste earned a law degree from the George Washington University and degrees in International Studies and Political Science from the City College of New York. While in Law School, Ms. Jean-Baptiste worked with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL).

Born and raised in Haiti, Ms. Jean-Baptiste is fluent in Haitian Creole, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.

 

 

SUSAN M. KATH


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Director
Environment Program
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Susan M. Kath became Director of the Environment Program in February 2013. She directs the program in its work with international and regional environmental NGOs to incubate and develop cross-jurisdictional pro bono projects in the areas of land, marine, and biodiversity conservation, climate change adaptation, toxic waste remediation, and sustainable infrastructure development.

Ms. Kath served as the Chief of the New York City Law Department Environmental Law Division from 1997 to 2010 and as Deputy Chief from 1994 to 1997. Ms. Kath managed and directed the division in its representation of the Mayor of the City of New York and its agencies with respect to all federal, state and local environmental laws and served as a senior advisor to the Corporation Counsel, Deputy Mayors and City Agency Commissioners. Ms. Kath managed complex environmental policy and litigation matters in the areas of climate change and climate resilience, environmental sustainability and public health, transportation, energy and wastewater infrastructure projects, and major New York City economic development initiatives. Ms. Kath participated in the creation of the City’s first sustainability plan, PlaNYC: A Greener, Greater New York and in the design and creation of the City’s long term solid waste management plan. Ms. Kath co-taught a seminar class at Harvard Law School on PlaNYC and the legal issues related to sustainability planning.

Ms. Kath is a member of the Executive Committee of the New York Committee for Human Rights Watch, a member of the Advisory Committee for Health and Human Rights at Human Rights Watch, and a member of the Board of Directors of Prospect Park Alliance. She is a graduate of Fordham Law School and Northwestern University.

 

ADRIANA OSPINA


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Director of Pro Bono Partnerships

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Adriana Ospina joined the Vance Center in May 2015 as Director of Pro Bono Partnerships. She is responsible for developing and managing relationships with law firms and other legal institutions that collaborate on pro bono legal representation with Vance Center lawyers. In addition, she manages the Center’s relationship with pro bono clearinghouse organizations, including those in the Pro Bono Network of the Americas, to promote pro bono practice in Latin America and elsewhere.

Ms. Ospina currently serves as a member of the Greenwich Board of Education in Greenwich, CT and has been active in supporting initiatives to narrow the achievement gap between minority students and their non-minority counterparts in Greenwich’s fifteen schools. She is also an active volunteer for Abilis, a non-for-profit organization that serves children and adults with disabilities. As the director of Abilis’ Hispanic parent network, Ms. Ospina was responsible for planning and teaching a bi-annual course on special needs law to low-income, Hispanic parents of children with special needs. The objective of the course was to empower parents to be effective advocates for the rights of their children.

Ms. Ospina received a JD from Harvard Law School and an AB in German Studies from Harvard University. After receiving her JD, Ms. Ospina worked as an associate with the law firm Shearman & Sterling in the New York office and subsequently as Of Counsel while living in Brazil and then Colombia. During her time at Shearman & Sterling, Ms. Ospina worked on general corporate and banking finance transactions.

Ms. Ospina was born in Colombia and has lived in the United States, Austria and Brazil. She speaks Spanish, English, Portuguese, French, and German.

 

 

KARINA BENZAQUEN 


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Communications and Development Associate
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Karina Benzaquen Joined the Vance Center in November 2015 as the Communications and Development Assistant.

Ms. Benzaquen holds a Master degree in International Business from Hult International Business School in Boston. She also holds a BA in International Relations, with a concentration in Global Business from Roanoke College in Virginia.

Ms. Benzaquen was born in Peru and has lived in Germany, Greece, and the United States. She is bi-lingual in English and Spanish and also speaks Russian.

 

LEIRE LARRACOECHEA SAN SEBASTIAN 


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Fulbright Fellow in Pro Bono Practice
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Leire Larracoechea, a Spanish lawyer, joined the Vance Center in June 2015 as a Fulbright fellow in pro bono practice. At the Vance Center’s Pro Bono Partnerships Program, Leire assists the Director, Adriana Ospina, on different legal pro bono projects. She also helps her staffing, tracking, and managing the progress of pro bono projects placed at law firms and other legal institutions in the United States. Together they have organized and executed the Vance Center’s 2015 Legal Summit of the Americas, a 2-day pro bono conference that hosted over 80 attorneys, NGO leaders and members of academia representing 19 countries, five bar associations, six universities, 21 NGOs, and 37 law firms. In addition, Leire is part of the Women in the Profession Program, where she works to strengthen the position of women in the legal profession and lends support to the foundation of woman mentorship programs in Latin America aimed at aiding women in their path to professional achievement.

Previously, Ms. Larracoechea worked at Cuatrecasas, Gonçalves Pereira, a leading Spanish law firm in its Pro-International Advocacy Program, reserved for highly promising associate attorneys based on their academic records and commitment to international study. During this three-year rotation program, she participated in major Spanish and cross-border transactions and litigations within the areas of corporate-M&A, international arbitration, taxation and labor law. She also was active in the firm’s Pro Bono Program, working with NGOs and foundations dealing with different labor, corporate, and tax issues.

Ms. Larracoechea received an LL.M. from Harvard Law School. She was awarded a Fulbright Postgraduate Scholarship to study the ingredients for developing pro bono service in Spain both at Harvard and at the Vance Center. She received bachelor’s  degrees in law and  journalism from Universidad Carlos III de Madrid.

Ms. Larracoechea speaks Spanish, French, and English.

 

INDIRA MURILLO 


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Human Rights Fellow
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 Indira Murillo, a Colombian attorney, joined the Vance Center as a human rights fellow in September 2015. She researches and analyzes a wide range of international and regional human rights treaties and laws and their interaction with domestic legislation. She also supports the Human Rights and Access to Justice Program by organizing events and communicating with clients in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States.  

Prior to joining the Vance Center, Ms. Murillo completed an LL.M. in International Legal Studies with a specialization in International Human Rights and Gender at American University - Washington College of Law. While there, she worked as the  Dean’s Fellow at the War Crimes Research Office, where she analyzed and reported on judgments from international criminal tribunals and human rights tribunals in the Gender Jurisprudence Collections database involving sexual and gender based crimes. Previously in Colombia, she worked as a legal advisor for the National Division of Promotion and Dissemination of Human Rights at the Ombudsman Office of Colombia.  She, designed and conducted trainings on promoting legal awareness and access to justice for women living in extreme poverty and  victims of internal armed conflict with a  special emphasis  on prevention and punishment of domestic and other forms of gender-based violence. She served as a legal advisor in Colombia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on a collaborative project with the Bogota City Hall and International Organization for Migration; working with Colombian returnees on visa and naturalization procedures, migrant workers’ rights, circular labor migration programs, deportation proceedings, international child abduction, and international child support cases, among others. She also was a law professor at Universidad Santo Tomás and Universidad Católica de Colombia, where she taught public international law. She received her law degree from Universidad Cooperativa de Colombia and LL.M. from Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg- Germany.

She speaks Spanish, English and German.