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2020 Peace Corps/Fulbright evacuees found success at Tulane Law

May 17, 2023 5:15 AM
Alina Hernandez ahernandez4@tulane.edu

(L-R) The Class of 2023's, Kayla Chisholm, Sage Knapp, Annie Matthews and Ingrid von Kleydorff, as well as Caroline Perlis, who is not pictured, evacuated from host countries during the pandemic where they were serving in the Peace Corps or as Fulbright Scholars. They landed at Tulane Law where they each have made significant contributions to the school and community. (Photo credit: Alina Hernandez)


They are the Class of 2023’s adventurers, the five women evacuees who arrived at Tulane Law in the fall of 2020, having left their Fulbright or Peace Corps work in a hurry when an international pandemic changed the world.

At Tulane Law, the pandemic-year evacuees are within days of receiving their Juris Doctor degree. They not only grew stronger from one of the most challenging times the nation faced, they thrived through the uncertainty. In three years, Kayla Chisholm, Sage Knapp, Annie Matthews, Caroline Perlis and Ingrid von Kleydorff have each made their mark on Tulane and found their strengths and passions.

Three years later, they've set their law careers in motion. Here is what they’ve done:

Kayla Chisholm
Brooklyn, NY
J.D. in International and Comparative Law

Chisholm arrived at Tulane Law after being recalled from the Peace Corps, where she was a volunteer in Thailand.

Chisholm was sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and spent three months training in Thailand. Thirty-six hours after she was sworn in, and a day before learning her permanent location, she was called home.

At Tulane Law, she has been a student-attorney in the Immigrant Rights Clinic, Senior Business Editor of the Journal of International and Comparative Law, Vol. 31, Vice President of the Tulane Latinx Law Student Association, a law clerk with the Tulane Legal Assistance Program (TULAP), a secretary of the Black Law Student Association (BLSA) and of the First-Generation Law Student Association.

She has been a mentor, a member of the committee that advises the dean and performed dozens of hours of pro bono work in service to the community. She interned at Schroders Investment Management in New York as part of the in-house counsel internship program and worked as a law clerk for Earthjustice in San Francisco.

For all of her service to Tulane, Chisholm also received the Crest Award for Graduate Students, given annually to students in recognition of their efforts and achievements outside of the classroom.

Her best advice for incoming law students is to “know your why” as in “why are you in law school?”

Back in 2020: The five were evacuated from posts overseas 
due to the pandemic. Today, they're launching law careers.

“Writing my 'why' really helped ground me during 1L when I had an unexpected medical emergency. It grounded me again my 2L year when we had a hurricane and had to evacuate for a month. But most importantly, my 'why' gave me the push I needed to risk studying abroad (which was my best decision ever!).”

Her most impactful law school experience was working with the Immigrant Rights Clinic, she said.  She worked with faculty researching how Black detainees fared worse in the immigration system across the board compared to others.

“That really gave me the skills to lead a project that would address a much larger institutional issue that could really help the New Orleans community,” she said. “What we did, what we learned, really matters.”

And, she made a lifelong friend because of the COVID-19 pandemic. She and Ingrid von Kleydorff (featured here), connected through the Peace Corps. They have supported each other ever since. 

Sage Knapp
Scottsdale, Ariz.

J.D. in Admiralty and Energy Law

Knapp arrived at Tulane Law after being evacuated from her Fulbright  ETA post in Luang Prabang, Laos.

While at Tulane, she has been a member of the Maritime Law Journal, served as the president of OUTLaw, was part of the Jewish Law Students Association, and served on the Deans’ Advisory Committee.

In the summers, she worked at Porter Hedges LLP in Houston and also did a semester-long externship at the Port of New Orleans. She completed her pro bono hours at the Real Name Campaign, helping trans and nonbinary Louisianans get their name and gender marker corrected on different state documents and identification. Knapp also worked assisting people in getting expunctions and non-disclosures.

Over three years of law school she was a Research Assistant for various faculty members and also worked in Tulane’s Office of the General Counsel, managing a variety of matters that impacted student life at Tulane.

After graduation, she will join Porter Hedges, LLP in Houston.

She has a lot of advice for anyone considering law school.

“My biggest advice would be to keep an open mind and really soak everything up. There are so many opportunities at Tulane Law to learn from your professors, administration, and your peers. I think taking the time to build relationships with as many people as possible is important, as it will open many doors for you and expose you to so many opportunities.”

Annie Matthews (B’15)
Cincinnati, Ohio

J.D., Environmental Law Certificate

Matthews was in the Peace Corps for a year and a half, assigned to Benin, in West Africa.

While in law school Matthews took environmental law and civil law courses, and plans to work in a public interest position in the field. She was a member of the Tulane Journal of Law & Sexuality, served on the Environmental and Energy Law Society and was a member of OUTLaw.

She spent summers in internships including with the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, Taproot Earth, the Office of the General Counsel with USDA, the Natural Resources Environmental Division and Southeast Louisiana Legal Services’ Disaster Unit.

She said her experience being evacuated during the pandemic made her much stronger and prepared for law school.

“The emotional uncertainty of that situation really helped me stretch beyond my comfort zone, and that definitely translated to law school,” said Matthews. “I think it helped me become more self-reliant and to recognize that I was capable of a lot.”

Her advice for incoming students: “Take care of your mental and physical health first, prioritize relationships with your friends and family, and succeeding in law school will follow.”

Caroline Perlis
New Orleans, La.

J.D., with emphasis on public interest work

Perlis was in Morocco for seven months before she was called home.

In law school, Perlis took a broad array of law classes, including Employment Law, Socio-Economic Rights, Fair Housing, as well as the skills-training course, Trial Advocacy. She also was the Senior Articles Editor of the Tulane Law Review and a student attorney in the Civil Rights and Federal Practice Clinic. 

In her summers, Perlis was an Access to Justice Intern for the Louisiana State Bar Association, and a Legal Intern at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. She also did a summer internship at Jones Walker and Phelps Dunbar in New Orleans. Her pro bono hours were done with Southeast Louisiana Legal Services on cases that came out of the nonprofit’s Medical Legal Partnership program. 

After graduation, Perlis will be joining Phelps Dunbar in the Labor & Employment group.

If there is one significant memory of law school that made an impact, Perlis points to the Access to Justice internship. The work with public interest organizations really opened her eyes, she said.

“That internship gave me a clear picture of how the system doesn’t always serve people,” she said. “No matter where I work, I know that I am going to be dedicated to doing pro bono work and helping those that need access to a lawyer."

Her best advice for future lawyers: “Take advantage of all of the opportunities you have to ask practicing lawyers questions about their jobs and career paths. I found this was the best way to narrow down the type of work and work environment that I could see myself thriving in after graduation.”

Ingrid von Kleydorff
Lakewood, Colo.

J.D., International and Comparative Law

Von Kleydorff was working in Ecuador for 10 months as a Youths and Families Development volunteer before she was evacuated.

Her Peace Corps experience led her to explore courses in international and environmental law while in law school.  Serving as both research assistant and a student attorney in the Environmental Law Clinic was the highlight of her law school experience, enabling her to support critical advocacy efforts in Louisiana environmental justice communities. She also served on the Moot Court Board as an Administrative Justice for Academic Affairs and Alumni Relations and participated in Mock Trial as an Assistant Coach and competitor.

In addition to clinical and trial advocacy, she worked on the Journal of International & Comparative Law and served as Secretary for the Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF) and as Vice President of the First-Generation Law Foundation. She supported 1Ls as a Harris Fellow peer mentor and served the Tulane community clerking with TULAP.

During her summers, von Kleydorff continued her commitment to public service, working at the Colorado Legal Services Migrant Farmworker Division, the Sierra Club and Greenpeace International. She also externed with Earthjustice International in her final year of law school.

For von Kleydorff, there is one friendship that really made a difference in her Tulane Law experience. Upon moving to New Orleans, she met Chisholm (featured here), and they bonded over their Peace Corps experiences. As Tulane law students, she and Chisholm were bedrock supporters of each other.

 "We have remained close friends ever since and it has blossomed into one of the most supportive and reliable friendships I have ever had,” said von Kleydorff. “We have helped each other get through law school and even traveled to Berlin for Study Abroad last summer. Truthfully, if it weren't for the Peace Corps leading me to meet up with Kayla, I don't know how I would have made it through!”