Professor Vanessa Merton Named Pace University Jefferson Award Winner

May 18, 2020
Professor Vanessa Merton

Professor Vanessa Merton Named Pace University Jefferson Award Winner

Elisabeth Haub School of Law faculty member recognized for public service and work with immigration justice clinic

WHITE PLAINS, NY (May 18, 2020) -- Pace University has named Vanessa Merton, a professor at Pace’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law, a winner of the 2019-2020 Jefferson Award for Public Service.

Pace University’s Jefferson Awards for Public Service recognize individuals from the Pace University community for their public and volunteer service, and dedication to improving the quality of life in their communities. Each year, the Jefferson Awards look for the unsung heroes—the selfless people who make the world a better place through volunteering and community service efforts.

“Vanessa Merton exemplifies the altruistic spirit and tireless dedication that help make the Haub Law community so very special,” said Haub Law Dean Horace Anderson.

Merton has served as Elisabeth Haub School of Law’s Associate Dean for Clinical Education for 15 years, while creating the Access to Health Care and Prosecution of Domestic Violence Clinics. She currently directs the Immigration Justice Clinic, staffed by student attorneys authorized to practice under supervision, which provides free legal services to indigent noncitizens seeking to regularize their status, reunite with their children, and fight deportation. In 2017, the IJC assisted travelers detained at airports under the Trump Executive Orders and has spent recent spring breaks volunteering at immigrant detention centers on the southern border.

Merton has received numerous awards, including the Pace Law Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence, the Graduating Class Award for Outstanding Law Professor, the Servant of Justice Award for advocacy for Haitian refugees, the Pace LALSA Alianza Award, the Pace Immigration Law Society Persistence Award, and the Excellence in Teaching Award of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (the highest honor for an immigration law professor), and she was named a “Lawyer Who Leads by Example” by the New York Law Journal. She is a founding member of the New York Immigrant Representation Group convened and led by Chief Judge Robert Katzmann of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

For her work setting up a 200-student emergency operation to assist people affected by the 9/11 tragedy, Merton received six national and local awards in 2002. She began her legal education career at New York University School of Law, and was a founding faculty member of CUNY Law School, and a Mellon and National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow.

About Elisabeth Haub School of Law:

Pace University’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law (Haub Law) offers J.D. and Masters of Law degrees in both Environmental and International Law, as well as a Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) in Environmental Law. The school, housed on the University’s campus in White Plains, N.Y., opened its doors in 1976 and has over 8,500 alumni around the world. The school maintains a unique philosophy and approach to legal education that strikes an important balance between practice and theory.

The Elisabeth Haub School of Law launched its Environmental Law Program in 1978; it has long been ranked among the world’s leading university programs. Pace’s doctoral graduates teach environmental law at universities around the world. Pace’s J.D. alumni are prominent in environmental law firms, agencies and non-profit organizations across the U.S. and abroad. In 2016, the Law School received a transformational gift from the family of Elisabeth Haub, in recognition of its outstanding environmental law programs. For more information visit

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