Rosann Mariappuram, '15, originally from Cleveland, Ohio, moved to New York City to attend New York University for undergraduate studies in political science. She came to the Colin Powell School's International Relations Master's Program in 2012, and while there, was awarded a New York Life Endowment for Emerging African American Issues Graduate Fellowship in 2013. Her commitment to women's health and reproductive rights is reflected in her work at organizations including Jane's Due Process, the Reproductive Health Access Project, and Human Rights Watch. Before entering grad school, she also worked in immigration law as a paralegal. Mariappuram is currently a J.D. candidate ('18) at the University of Texas School of Law.
What attracted you to the International Relations MA program at CCNY?
The professors and students were the biggest thing that attracted me to CCNY. So many of the professors were experts in their fields, and many continue to work closely with the U.N. and NGOs. I also knew I’d be working while completing my M.A. and CCNY was very appealing because they seemed supportive of working students, especially with night classes and intersession options. Once I was in class I was also pleased to find out that so many students were from outside the United States: it brought diversity of opinions and experiences to our classroom conversations.
How did the graduate Colin Powell fellowship enhance your studies? What were you specifically doing in your fellowship?
The Colin Powell fellowship helped me develop my into a much clearer career path. My project was to compare advocacy strategies between the LGBTQI* and reproductive rights movements in the United States. The research definitely helped me tie together my interest in women’s rights with creating change through law and policy. The fellowship also helped me create great relationships with graduate students out side of my field but with shared interests. Getting to have small meetings with the other fellows throughout the school year was really wonderful, and Michael Busch became a great mentor for me while I was at CCNY.
How did you come to be interested in women's reproductive health/rights and access?
I was interested in women’s issues in college and took a few gender studies courses, and then my senior year I did an internship at Human Rights Watch on the backlog of untested sexual assault kits in Illinois. The internship opened my eyes to the way that women and girls still face discrimination in the law and made me want to know what other areas of law still remained unequal. Then I got the job at the Reproductive Health Access Project (RHAP) and learned about how difficult it is to access birth control and abortion in the United States. That kind of changed everything for me and made me realize fighting for reproductive rights is what I want to commit to!
What drives your interest in pursuing a J.D.? Did you know that you wanted to go to law school when in the Master's program?
I didn’t know I would end up getting a J.D. when I started the M.A. program. I actually started the program thinking I would use the M.A. to work on women’s issues internationally. I had studied Arabic in college and was interested in working on women’s issues in the Middle East & North Africa. Through the Colin Powell Fellowship project and my work at RHAP, I began to realize there was still a lot of work to do on women’s rights in the U.S. and I started to think about working on domestic policy reform. That’s when law school became appealing. I realized with a J.D. I could make a big impact on law and policy.
Do you feel like the connections you made here in the fellowship and in the M.A. program helped shape your professional trajectory?
Yes, definitely! I met several students in the M.A. program who were interested in women’s issues, and my thesis advisor, Professor Jean Krasno really helped me develop my interest in law and gender. And the Colin Powell fellows were so supportive when I was beginning to study for the LSAT and consider law school. It helped having a small group of other young professionals to bounce ideas off of and hear about their own experiences of picking a career path.
As an alum, what do you think the Colin Powell School can do to better foster and maintain relationships with their graduates?
I love getting the Colin Powell School newsletters and emails, it’s great hearing about how the school is growing. I think doing more events/mixers with alumni--both in NYC and outside of it--would be a great way to foster connections. And perhaps surveying alums and putting us in contact with current students who are interested in our fields would be great. I know I’d love to help any students who are interested in my field because I had so many great mentors during my time at CCNY.