Although Law, Societies, and Justice is not one of UW’s larger majors, two of its students were selected to be amongst the Husky 100, a tri-campus award that seeks to recognize the 100 students who made the most of their time at the UW and best exemplify the Husky experience.
This year’s inaugural class of the Husky 100 includes two of LSJ’s best and brightest students, Meron Fikru and Starla Sampaco.
“We were delighted to support Meron and Starla for this prestigious award,” said LSJ Director Steve Herbert, “and extraordinarily proud that they were selected. They exemplify the type of engaged student experience we hope all of our students realize. We are very pleased that their work was recognized.”
Meron Fikru is a senior pursuing a major in LSJ. Her interest in LSJ began when she took an introductory class in the winter of her freshman year and immediately knew that this was the right path for her.
“LSJ had all the answers to the all the questions I had about the world,” Fikru said.
Her interests lie primarily in criminal justice, specifically in drug policies and prison systems. Her experience in LSJ’s mixed-enrollment class, where UW students learn alongside inmates from the Washington State Reformatory, only furthered this passion.
“It was, hands down, the best class I’ve ever taken,” said Fikru, when asked about her time in the class. “It was amazing.”
Aside from her academic pursuits, Fikru has been very involved in the community, especially the black community, both on and off-campus.
She has worked with the African Students Association to put on Afro-Caribbean Night for the past three years, the Black Student Union as their VP of Campus Affairs, and Delta Sigma Theta, an active service sorority for African American women. Last October, she traveled to the South with the Civil Rights pilgrimage learning more about the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s. She has also spent the last few summers working with various civil liberties groups in DC.
“I’ve definitely spent a lot of time, all over campus, and off, in multiple avenues. I feel like I’ve had a really good four years,” she said.
Using these experiences, Fikru plans to take next year off to work at the University of Mississippi’s William Winner Institute for Racial Reconciliation discussing campus policy issues and diversity. After that, she would love to move to Germany or Amsterdam to study their prison systems.
Still, no matter where she goes, her Husky experience will always follow her.
“I feel like I definitely represent the Husky experience,” Fikru said. “I feel like I’ve taken a lot of different paths through college and I’ve done a lot of exploring. It seems like the Husky 100 is all about people pushing their own boundaries. So I think that I make a unique experience in that I’m not your typical UW student.”
Starla Sampaco is a junior double majoring in LSJ and Journalism. For her, LSJ has been about making her a better citizen and journalist.
“Whether you are taking a class on human rights or policy like mass incarceration, what LSJ teaches you is that these policy decisions really impact people on a human level,” Sampaco said. “And as a journalist, that’s something that I absolutely need to be aware of when I’m reporting, whether it’s for print or video.”
Since the young age of eight, Sampaco has known that she wanted to be a journalist. Thus, journalism has been a huge part of Sampaco’s time at the UW. She has worked with The Daily of the University of Washington since January 2015 as a beat reporter, video reporter, co-executive video producer, and currently, as the digital projects editor. She is also an active freelance reporter having worked with such newspapers as Northwest Asian Weekly, The Seattle globalist, The International Examiner, and Woodinville Weekly.
Throughout these experiences, she has used the valuable knowledge gained through her academic pursuits in LSJ to become more conscious of the issues and forces at play in the world.
“Through LSJ, I’ve not only become aware of my own privilege on a personal level, but also a journalist, it makes me realize that there are gradients of power that you have to be aware of when you are reporting,” she said.
Apart from journalism, another interest of Sampaco’s is diversity. In 2014, she competed in Miss Teen USA as Miss Washington under the community platform of “Diversity and Beauty Standards: Different is not defective.”
“The reason I chose that platform was to initiate discussion on the lack of diverse female representation in the media,” Sampaco said. “Because even when you’re a really young kid, you’ll turn on the TV, you’ll open up a magazine and if you don’t see people who look like you in those media, you feel like you don’t matter or that your identity isn’t necessarily important.”
To her, the Husky 100 is about showcasing this diversity among UW students.
“I really appreciate the efforts UW has been putting into recognizing a diverse group of students,” said Sampaco. “I think that’s very unique and definitely one of the factors that drew me to this award.”
By Medha Raman