Ava Nabatkhoran
Ava Nabatkhoran ’24 to Attend University of Pennsylvania Law School

Degree: B.A. in Political Science
Programs: Macaulay Honors, Pre-Law Institute (PLI)

Mentors: PLI Director Elizabeth Broccoli, Professor Evan Mandery, Associate Professor Peter Romaniuk, Ph.D., Professor Jordan Reitzfeld
Internships: Proskauer, Pfizer
Hometown: Queens, NY
Career Aspiration: Litigator and Clinical Law Professor

What was life like before John Jay?
I’m a first-generation American. My parents came to this country from Iran. Growing up in Queens in a diverse neighborhood and going to a diverse school, I didn’t think of myself as different. Then I went back to Iran with my family and realized that diversity wasn’t the norm everywhere.

Why John Jay?
I knew I wanted to go into the legal field before I came to college, and I thought that John Jay and Macaulay would be perfect because of all the resources and support they have for aspiring attorneys. When I came to John Jay as a prospective student, and experienced class visits, I loved that it wasn’t just a lecture; there were deep conversations eliciting the students’ thoughts and opinions.

What life experiences ignited your passion for pursuing a legal career? 
The moment I knew I wanted to become an attorney was when I was 12 years old and visited Iran for the first time. There were no direct flights to Iran, so we stayed in Dubai for a little bit beforehand. It was hot there, so I was wearing short sleeves. Understanding the country better than I did, my mom packed me a change of clothing. At one point, the flight attendant announced that we had crossed over into the Islamic Republic of Iran. That was the cue. Everyone changed and started to cover up. I was super confused about what was happening and knew I was in a very different place. In Queens, I’d seen a lot of different people from many religions and I appreciated how everyone could express themselves. But having something compulsory felt very different to me. Growing up, I loved learning about government and history. I knew all about the Bill of Rights. When I went to Iran, I found that not everyone was guaranteed a Bill of Rights.

How has the Honors Program, PLI, and Pre-Law Scholars enhanced your experience at John Jay?
The Honors Program introduced me to all the different programs available to me and the staff gave me the support I needed to explore those opportunities. The Pre-Law Institute helped put me on the right path to law school. I took classes with Dr. Davidson (Charles Davidson, Ph.D., assistant dean of Student Professional Advancement and director for the Center for Post-Graduate Opportunities). He introduced me to PLI and the Pre-Law Scholars Program. I also found my pre-law advisor, Elizabeth Broccoli, the director of PLI. Having her advice throughout my junior and senior years was amazing. She gave me career insights, alerted me to legal internship opportunities, and reassured me that I was in a good place to reach my goals. The Pre-Law Scholars Program was great because there was a workshop for every part of the law school application process. They gave me clear goals to reach, a timeline to follow, and made the process very transparent.

What was your internship experience like interning at Proskauer and Pfizer?
Right now, I’m the corporate social responsibility intern at Proskauer. I get to help the firm give back to the community with education initiatives, like the John Jay Educational Initiative. I help do research and prep the materials for workshops they have with students. We recently finished up our moot court program with high school students. The students had the opportunity to learn all about moot court both in person and on Zoom. Moot court isn’t something most people get to know about until law school, but with this educational initiative, 14-year-old students were reading about Supreme Court cases, going over them with associates, and making oral arguments in front of a panel of judges.

During my internship with Pfizer—which Dr. Davidson helped me secure—I assisted the government litigation team. I helped them with the congressional issues they were researching, which was nice to see the cross-over between politics and law. We worked on projects covering voting rights, housing, and clinics, but one of my favorite projects was working with Markus Green ’95, a John Jay alumnus and Vice President and Assistant General Counsel at Pfizer, on AGA Africa (Attorney General Alliance Africa). It was fascinating sitting in on conferences on things like electoral reform in Ghana. I enjoyed seeing how companies like Pfizer worked to give back to other communities.

What are your post-graduate plans?
I’ll be attending Penn Law School, which has always been my top choice. When you go to information sessions with different law schools, you see what each school wants to emphasize. Penn highlighted their close-knit community and how much they care about pro-bono work—which wasn’t something I expected a law school to do. The small class size and commitment to the good of the community reminded me of the Macaulay Honors College and my experience in the Honors Program at John Jay, where we explored the common good. Penn also offered me over $30,000 toward my tuition. 

If all goes well, where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I hope to be a litigator at a firm where I can work closely with their education initiatives and pro-bono projects. I’m also interested in working on appellate cases involving voting rights and constitutional law. All my experiences at John Jay have given me a passion for strengthening our constitutional protections.