This story is part of a series of profiles featuring some of this year’s outstanding law school graduates from UC Law San Francisco.
After seeing her family develop health problems from exposure to polluted air and water, Telesia Hunkin ’23 was inspired to fight for environmental justice and social equality. That’s why she decided to study law at UC Law San Francisco.
“I saw a serious problem affecting the lives of my family and community members and thought, ‘I need to help take care of them and the community as a whole,’” she said.
In law school, Hunkin spent summers interning with a company that works to reduce plastic pollution and an organization that provides free legal aid to low-income individuals. She also joined the Black Law Students Association and the Indigenous and Native American Law Students Association at UC Law SF. She said both organizations allowed her to connect with peers, gain a sense of community, and build lasting friendships.
After graduating with her JD in May, she plans to work as a public interest lawyer serving underrepresented communities and individuals. “I came to law school to pursue a career in environmental law,” she said. “I still want to work in the environmental law space, but I am open more broadly to working in the public interest field.”
Hunkin, who grew up in Oakland, spent summers as a child visiting her grandmother and cousins, who lived near an oil refinery in Carson, California, south of Los Angeles. She saw her family develop health conditions, including eczema and exacerbated asthma, after exposure to pollution. The experience motivated her to advocate for change.
Before starting law school, Hunkin studied anthropology at UC Riverside, which she said taught her to look at situations holistically and consider the effects of systemic bias on individuals and communities.
Hunkin said the location of UC Law San Francisco appealed to her because it allowed her to spend time with her family, including her great-grandmother, “I am in law school because my family supports me in all that I do. I would not be the person I am without the love and support of my family.”
During law school, Hunkin served as a fellow with Legal Services of Northern California, providing pro bono legal assistance to low-income community members in Mendocino and Lake Counties. She said the work taught her the importance of “building understanding with clients who may come from different backgrounds and have different lived experiences to find common ground that will help address their legal issues.”
She also served on the law school’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Working Group, providing valuable input to help promote diversity on campus, “UC Law San Francisco is a really diverse community, and I am grateful for that.”
Hunkin praised members of the law school faculty, including Professor Mai Linh Spencer, who she said care about students and prepare them to become competent, well-rounded attorneys, “UC Law SF is a huge community of people who want all members to succeed in what they want to do post-graduation and post-Bar.”