An open letter to international students and alumni in light of recent events


In the last week, I have been troubled, shocked, upset, and saddened by reports of comments purportedly made by the President of the United States about immigrants and nations. For decades, the International Legal Studies Program (ILSP), Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Program, and the International Visiting Scholars Program have welcomed students and researchers from around the globe to our law school. They have enriched the lives and educational experiences of our students and faculty, and work to make the world a better place while continuing to be part of our American University Washington College of Law (AUWCL) family. I therefore feel the need to state publicly that such alleged derogatory comments about any person or any country are in opposition to the United States that I know and love.

I immigrated to the U.S. with my family as a teenager. My father came to the U.S. in 1935 on an academic scholarship, but ended up staying for over two decades before returning to his home country of Iran. He was welcomed to this country, together with a group of international students, by then First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. He subsequently had the privilege of attending many different institutions of higher learning and firmly believed that U.S. colleges and universities are unique in their ability to allow for new and innovative ways of thinking, and for attracting the best and brightest from around the world. I am grateful to my father for bringing our family to the U.S. and giving me the opportunity to grow and develop in ways that only existed for me here.

AUWCL and ILSP stand directly opposed to the politics of division and fear. We recognize that diversity, in all its different forms, is part of the fabric of U.S. society. AUWCL, founded by two women, opened its doors to both men and women at a time when women were denied admission to law schools. Today, our JD student body is one of the most diverse in the country. Many of our students speak multiple languages, come from first-generation immigrant families, and have global outlooks and interests. ILSP is one of the oldest and most prestigious Masters of Law programs in the United States. Our renowned faculty are committed to promoting justice and rule of law through global collaboration and are actively engaged in helping those who are fighting against tyranny, oppression, and division throughout the world. 

“AUWCL and ILSP stand directly opposed to the politics of division and fear. We recognize that diversity, in all its different forms, is part of the fabric of U.S. society.”

Padideh Ala'i

As Director of International Programs and Faculty Director of ILSP, I follow one overarching principle: promotion of unity in diversity. We are all part of the human family, irrespective of national borders, race, gender, or religion. At the same time, we are not homogeneous in our experiences. The beauty of life is that when we see ourselves through the eyes of others who have experienced life differently than us, we develop empathy for them. Empathy in turn is crucial to the establishment of a peaceful and just world. Our international programs allow empathy to take root and develop while also teaching substantive areas of law and lawyering skills.

I thank each of you for being part of our AUWCL/ILSP family and look forward to working with you to build an open, tolerant, just, and peaceful world.