This fall, in an ongoing commitment to diversity and accessibility for international students, the Syracuse University College of Law became the 56th law school in the country to offer the Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) in Law degree program. The advanced research doctoral program for international students who have completed a Master of Laws (LL.M.) in American Law is designed to be small, enrolling just three to five new students each year. It prepares graduates for leadership roles in academic, judicial and public service positions in the U.S. or their home countries.
“The success of our LL.M. degree puts the Syracuse University College of Law in a position to attract high-quality candidates who want to build a foundation in academic coursework and research before moving on to an S.J.D. degree,” says Arlene Kanter, the College of Law’s Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor of Teaching Excellence and director of the S.J.D. program. “S.J.D. graduates can look forward to advancing their careers in academia, research, and the judiciary or pursuing further studies and collaboration with the College of Law.”
The inaugural 2021 S.J.D. cohort is comprised of four international students—from Brazil, China, Ethiopia and Palestinian Authority. “All four candidates came with an impressive background as law teachers or practicing lawyers in their home countries, and all completed their LL.M. at the top of their respective classes at the College of Law,” says Andrew Horsfall, assistant dean of international programs at the College of Law. “The S.J.D. expands our international footprint geographically, and into new areas of legal education and the legal profession.”
The S.J.D. is similar to a Ph.D., requiring a dissertation that supports original research and makes a substantial contribution to scholarship in its field. Syracuse University is an R1 research institution, and S.J.D. students are encouraged to pursue interdisciplinary coursework. The first two semesters are completed in residence at Syracuse, and subsequent semesters can be completed while conducting dissertation research and writing, field work and additional coursework at Syracuse or elsewhere. Each student works closely with a faculty advisor, merging their intellectual inquiry with their advisor’s expertise in specialties like disability law, national security law, and technology law, among others.
Meet the Inaugural Cohort
Ricardo Jose Macedo de Britto Pereira, Brazil
Ricardo Pereira LL.M. ’18 is a retired federal prosecutor and law professor from Brasilia, Brazil. He worked with College of Law professor Antonio Gidi on an agreement between Syracuse University and a labor prosecution office in Brazil that would allow federal prosecutors in Brazil to attend the LL.M. program at Syracuse. So when Pereira decided to pursue the LL.M. degree himself, he chose Syracuse’s College of Law. “I earned a Ph.D. in Spain in 2003, and research is an important part of my work,” Pereira says. “I wanted to have the same experience in the United States, and an S.J.D. from the U.S. carries a lot of weight. Professor Gidi is now my faculty advisor, and not only is he an authority on my topic, he’s from Brazil!”
Pereira believes the S.J.D. will enhance his career. “Research is amazing—it helps us discover the world. If you can transfer your knowledge to someone else, it’s even better. I think the S.J.D. will be very helpful in my work as a law professor.”
Pereira’s dissertation topic for the S.J.D. is employment discrimination class actions. “I’ve been working in labor human rights and complex litigation for a long time, and my past career has been directed at helping people,” he says. “My ultimate goal is to provide equal opportunities and better distribution of resources for vulnerable people, wherever I end up working.”
Research is amazing—it helps us discover the world. If you can transfer your knowledge to someone else, it’s even better. I think the S.J.D. will be very helpful in my work as a law professor.—Ricardo Pereira LL.M. ’18
Pereira says that he considers being an international student at Syracuse a privilege. “I’ve been welcomed as a full member of the campus and College of Law communities. I think that’s what ‘Being Orange’ is all about—being part of a strong community, wherever you’re from.”
Yohannes Zewale, Ethiopia
Yohannes Zewale LL.M. ’19 is from Gondar, Ethiopia, where he is a lecturer at Addis Ababa University College of Law. Zewale is blind, which has fed his passion for safeguarding the rights of the disabled throughout his career. He collaborated with different institutions to provide assisted technology for Ethiopians with visual impairment so that they could have the educational access he received. He also worked on the university’s Legal Aid Project to render pro bono legal advice for people who couldn’t afford to hire advocates. He researched and wrote policy briefs for the Ethiopian Association for the Blind and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). For the past two years, Zewale has worked at the Ethiopian Center for Disabilities and Development. “I worked as a disability inclusion advisor and coordinated a project known as Amplified Voices for Inclusive Election in Ethiopia,” he says. “This was a turning point in my life because I was able to immerse myself in a sea of disability rights advocacy.”
Adding something new to an existing sum of knowledge is why I love research so much. I believe the S.J.D. will enhance my career.—Yohannes Zewale LL.M. ’19
The path to Syracuse University began when Zewale received a Civil Society Leadership Award from the Open Society Foundation/Institute, which encouraged him to pursue the L.L.M. degree at Syracuse based on its strengths in disability law. His S.J.D. dissertation will focus on disability-inclusive elections in Ethiopia. “I will research whether Ethiopians with disabilities vote on an equal basis with others and examine whether there are disability-based voting restrictions,” he says. He also wants to explore whether disabled people get adequate political representation in Ethiopia.
“These topics have not been addressed in Ethiopian law, and the electoral law my dissertation focuses on is too new to be researched,” Zewale explains. “In the last few years, my country has undergone immersive legislative reform, and electoral law that covers things like voting rights, political representation, candidacy, party formation and more is the result of that. It wasn’t until June 2021 that we conducted a national election based on this law. In my research, I want to point out the gaps the Ethiopian law creates for disability inclusion, where things like alternative voting arrangements are not fully recognized.”
Zewale likes the S.J.D. program’s focus on research and appreciates the opportunity to take classes at any of Syracuse’s schools and colleges. “Adding something new to an existing sum of knowledge is why I love research so much,” he says. “I believe the S.J.D. will enhance my career. I expect it will impact my writing practice, and I’m getting a lot of practice in classes I’ve taken at the College of Law and the Maxwell School.”
Jawad Salman, Palestinian Authority
When Jawad Salman LL.M. ’18 arrived in Syracuse in 2017 to begin his LL.M. degree, he fulfilled a boyhood dream of visiting the U.S. “I found what I expected of a great nation,” he says. “Syracuse and the College of Law are so welcoming to international students, and I think it’s because people in the U.S. love to know and respect other cultures.”
The native of Tulkarem, Palestine, returned home after earning his LL.M. and worked as a law professor. “From the first day, I started working toward the next step—the S.J.D.—because I wanted to know more about U.S. tax law. The S.J.D. acceptance letter from a great law school like Syracuse was a dream come true.”
Salman plans to resume his career as a law professor when he completes the program. “The S.J.D. will allow me to add U.S. tax advice services to my law practice back home for Palestinian taxpayers who are subjected to U.S. taxes. I hope to be part of a team that will help the Palestinian Authority develop an advanced tax system based on good standing and cooperation with other Middle Eastern countries.”
College of Law professor Robert Nassau is Salman’s advisor for his dissertation, which will focus on proposing new tax consequences for Palestinian-Israeli economic systems. “I wouldn’t be here completing my S.J.D. if it wasn’t for Professor Nassau,” Salman says. “He didn’t just teach me tax law, he taught me how to be a good law professor. If I could make one contribution in my life, it’d be developing a new tax and economic agreement between the Palestinian Authority and Israel that would help the two nations live together in peace.”
Syracuse and the College of Law are so welcoming to international students, and I think it’s because people in the U.S. love to know and respect other cultures.—Jawad Salman LL.M. ’18
Salman believes that he found the best possible institution in the U.S. to pursue legal knowledge and research. “Since 2017, I have had a soul connection with Syracuse University,” he says. “Syracuse love is flowing through me.”
Renci “Mercy” Xie, China
When Renci “Mercy” Xie LL.M. ’20 was four years old she was hit by a bus and lost her right leg below the knee. She has channeled that accident into a fierce determination to fight for the rights of the disabled in her native China. “If we lived in a society full of inclusion, tolerance, and accessibility, people with disabilities would receive the support they need without having to speak out,” she said in an interview with Sixth Tone, a website that highlights news from across China. “But that’s not the case now.” Xie is determined to find a way to ensure that China fulfills its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a human rights treaty adopted by the United Nations in 2006 that protects and reaffirms the rights of people with disabilities.
As an international student with disabilities, I can still fully participate in every activity at Syracuse University. There is inclusiveness for everyone, no matter what their identity, religion or nationality.—Renci “Mercy” Xie LL.M. ’20
“I chose Syracuse for my LL.M. and S.J.D. because I wanted to learn more about international disability law, and the College of Law is famous for it,” Xie says. “Professor Arlene Kanter is my advisor, and she is a leading scholar in international and comparative disability law. I’m so honored to be her first S.J.D. student, and I learn something from her every day.”
Xie previously worked as a trainee lawyer and legal translator and hopes to become a law professor when she returns to China. “I want to focus on teaching disability law, and I would also like to translate law books into Chinese. This semester I’m taking courses in the Maxwell School and the School of Education, which help me understand disability law from different perspectives.”
Five years ago, Xie made a conscious choice to stop covering up her prosthetic leg and embrace her uniqueness. She has an active presence on social media, where she shares her story of resilience. “I just want to live cheerfully,” she says. Being surrounded by friends in an off-campus house reinforces Xie’s belief that the inclusiveness of the Syracuse community is its greatest feature. “As an international student with disabilities, I can still fully participate in every activity at Syracuse University. There is inclusiveness for everyone, no matter what their identity, religion or nationality,” she says. “I am always proud to tell people that I’m a student at Syracuse.”