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OPIA’s How Culturally Competent Are You? Gauging Your Cultural Competencies and Developing Tools for Effective Advocacy

February 13, 2020 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Successfully navigating a career as a human rights, environmental or development practitioner requires skills and competencies beyond subject matter expertise. Possessing cultural competencies and great intercultural communication skills can make the difference between being an effective advocate and one who does more harm than good. Students embarking on careers in advocacy domestically and internationally are encouraged to join OPIA, OCP, the Coalition of International Students and Global Affairs (CISGA), the Environmental Law Society (ELS), HLS Advocates, and the Human Rights and Business Law Students Association (HRBLSA), to explore some of the issues which arise, various codes of conduct for lawyers working abroad, and discuss essential skill-sets to become culturally aware advocates. In this candid discussion, students will also have the opportunity to ask career questions from those who have dedicated their careers to human rights advocacy, social justice and development.

Non-pizza lunch will be provided.

If you or an event participant requires disability-related accommodations, please contact HLS Accessibility Services in the Dean of Students Office at, or (617) 495-1880 in advance of the event.


Ana María Mondragón Duque
Ana María Mondragón Duque is a Deputy Judge (Magistrada Auxiliar) at the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) in Bogotá, Colombia, in charge of judging the crimes committed in the context of the armed conflict and contributes to guaranteeing the rights to truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition of the victims. She has worked as legal officer at the Independent Consultation and Investigation Mechanism (MICI), which is the accountability mechanism of the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), in Washington DC. There she investigated the Bank in cases of non-compliance with social and environmental safeguards where communities had been harmed by development projects financed by the Bank. She has also served as an attorney at the Human Rights and the Environment Program of the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) and at the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) in Costa Rica and was Visiting Professional at the Inter-American Court on Human Rights (IACHR). Ana María is a Colombian lawyer from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana and holds an LL.M. from Harvard Law School where she was a Fulbright Scholar. At Harvard, she was recipient of the Henigson Human Rights Fellowship and the Gary Bellow Public Service Award.

Eloise P. Lawrence
Eloise Lawrence is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Law and the Deputy Faculty Director of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. Lawrence co-teaches Housing Law and Policy on a biennial basis and is a member of the HLAB teaching team for courses specifically geared towards HLAB student attorneys. She also serves as supervisor and faculty adviser for the student practice organization Project No One Leaves.

Lawrence joined HLAB in 2011 at the height of the foreclosure crisis to work with students and community organizers to defend hundreds of families—homeowners and tenants who were losing their homes due to foreclosure. During the crisis, her cases involved predatory lending, improper foreclosure practices, discrimination, and unfair practices in the servicing of loans. She also worked with organizers to advocate for policy changes at the local, state and federal level. Since 2015, she has defended families who are being displaced from their homes and communities due to gentrification and speculation. In addition to protecting tenants in the courts, she, along with her students, works closely with community organizers to ensure tenants realize their collective power.

Prior to coming to Harvard, she worked as an attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services and the Conservation Law Foundation in Boston. She started her legal career as a Skadden Fellow in Chicago. She received a J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law in 2002 and a B.A. from Stanford University in 1995.

Cassandre C. Théano
Cassandre Théano is the Assistant Director of Human Rights and Public International Law at Columbia University. She joined Columbia from a career as an international human rights lawyer and advocate. Cassandre began her career as a law clerk followed by a number of years in private practice before engaging in strategic litigation and advocacy on various human rights issues. Currently, she serves as the ABA Section of International Law Diversity and Inclusion Fellow and is an Adjunct Professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Previously, Cassandre was the Associate Legal Officer for Inclusion and Equality at the Open Society Foundations (The Justice Initiative), focusing on citizenship and equality. In that capacity, she led the litigation and advocacy work related to the restoration of citizenship rights for Dominicans of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic, Black Mauritanians in Mauritania and various ethnic minorities in Cȏte d’Ivoire and Kenya. She was also instrumental on Temporary Protected Status advocacy and other related immigration policies affecting black migrants at the US/Mexico border. She regularly provides advice on strategy, policy, and funding to human rights and advocacy organizations. She was also a Human Rights Legal consultant for MADRE, an international women’s human rights organization and for Netflix on the docuseries, Rotten, which explores human rights abuses in the food supply chain.


February 13, 2020
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
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Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising


WCC 3007 Room