Benjie Parsalaw

(Photo Courtesy of Benjie Parsalaw)

SJD Class of 2018: IPLP Human Rights Advocate Benjie Parsalaw

Alejandra Cardenas Cuestas

Benjie Parsalaw says pursing his Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) was an ideal step for him. Besides practicing law, he wanted to develop law through legal academia and advocacy work. Parsalaw, a lawyer and lecturer in Tanzania, was teaching Public International Law, Human Rights Law, Environmental Law, and Constitutional Law at Tumaini University Makumira and said he wanted to engage in human rights advocacy for indigenous peoples rights, so he chose University of Arizona Law for its Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy (IPLP) program.

“Unlike any other place, Arizona Law offered a setting that gave me a sense of assurance that I was bound to succeed in my academic and professional endeavors,” says Parsalaw.

He also liked how Arizona Law and the IPLP program provided students with practical training through clinics, workshops, advocacy projects and externships.

“I participated in the Child and Family Law Clinic as an English/Swahili language interpreter,” says Parsalaw. “In the process, I benefited a great deal from hands-on learning about the U.S. justice system and client management skills.”

He was also one of the co-founders of the Doctoral Law Student Association at Arizona Law and served as president of the organization during the 2016-17 school year.

Parsalaw calls his learning experience at Arizona Law, “nothing short of excellent” and says he would recommend the SJD program to anyone thinking about pursuing it.

“Professor Robert Williams Jr.’s class on Critical Race Theory and Practice greatly enhanced my knowledge base on the legal aspects underlying race and racism in the U.S. and the world at large,” says Parsalaw.

During his time in the program, Parsalaw was an active member of the student body, taking advantage of the college’s many events and close-knit community, even across degree programs. He was selected by his fellow Class of 2018 graduates to be the non-JD student speaker at the college’s convocation and is a featured student model in college marketing materials.

“I will miss the law school’s rigorous learning environment, my professors, the amazing librarians, friendly staff and receiving a ‘Day at a Glance’ notification listing all the awesome events happening at the College of Law,” he says.

Parsalaw finished his time at Arizona Law by successfully defending his dissertation, “Foreign Direct Investment and Human Rights: A Case Study of Land-based Investment in Tanzania,” which explores legal and policy barriers to the protection of indigenous peoples' land rights in Tanzania.

He looks forward to returning to Tanzania, where he will continue to teach law as well as engage in human rights and advocacy work.