Student explores career options in civil rights, environmental law


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Tiffany Harvey’s interest with Asian culture started from elementary school, with anime and Japanese—but when arrived at University High School Academy in Southfield, she was dismayed to find that only Chinese language classes were offered.

“Surprisingly, I found Chinese language and culture fascinating, and was entranced by writing with pictures—or Hanzi,” she says. “I found myself wanting to learn more about the language and culture, possibly for translation. Eventually, I majored in Asian studies, focusing on China, and paired that with International Studies to study countries around the world.”

Harvey graduated from the University of Michigan with a dual bachelor’s degree in international studies and Asian studies. The more Harvey learned about how the world and society work and the problems that exist, she recognized a lot of issues have to do with where power is concentrated and where it is not; and what resources are shared, and which are not.

“A lawyer, who is an advocate for people in a certain power structure, plays an important role in shaping the society whether it is by the cases they win that shape law, the people they assist, or the education they can provide society at large from their unique experience and knowledge base,” she says. “I want to help people who truly need it and be able to make structural changes that can create a better future.”

Now a rising 2L at Detroit Mercy Law, Harvey particularly appreciates her professors.

“I really feel having great experts and passionate educators makes a huge difference in your educational experience,” she says. “So far, I’ve loved every single one of my teachers and can tell they are truly knowledgeable and passionate about what they teach.”

Being a Dean’s Fellow has definitely been a blessing, she adds.

“While I appreciate the support financially, it shows to me a recognition of my efforts so far and faith in the work I intend to do as an attorney—both are indispensable,” she says.

Her particular interests lie in civil rights and environmental law.

“I want to protect both people—especially marginalized people—and the planet,” she says. “I can’t wait to take more specialized topics related to these fields. But my first major career goal is to graduate law school and pass the bar. I think attaining those would be amazing right now!”

Harvey will extern this summer with Dykema, and also clerk for U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith of the Eastern District of Michigan.

“I’m very grateful and excited for the opportunity,” she says.

She has found remote studies helped her focus on getting work done.

“I was very hesitant at first since I truly believe in finding a study place in a library or special study spot around and burrowing in there. However, the teachers are engaging enough and the work is upfront enough for me to feel comfortable going to class online,” she says. “I will say I miss seeing people in person and making more personal connections—the events by the CSO, BLSA, and other groups are very helpful for encouraging meeting other people, thank goodness!”

The Detroit native is passionate about the Motor City, and for the past 5 years has been a regular volunteer at the D-Town Farm, a seven-acre organic farm in Detroit’s Rouge Park, where more than 30 different fruits, vegetables and herbs are grown and sold at local farmers’ markets

“Detroit is my home, so first, I enjoy it because I have so many memories,” she says. “I love visiting the Riverwalk, Belle Isle, the Main Library, and DIA. Also, there are many places to eat that are always fun to explore.”

In her leisure time, Harvey enjoys creative pursuits, including writing, drawing, dancing, playing harp, and listening to music; and also loves learning and studying Chinese.

She has wonderful memories of her June 2014 trip to study and intern in Beijing, her first excursion outside the U.S.

“I’ll never forget how down to earth the people felt, the high-speed train system, and, of course, my internship experiences,” she says. “I volunteered to help at the Beijing Huiling Center for adults with disabilities as well as the Able Development Institute—ADI—run by a woman with disabilities who was trying to change policies around accessibility. From both NGOs, I learned a lot about their system and attitudes toward disability and was excited to see people doing such important work.

“Some exciting locations I visited were the Terracotta Army, the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and Pingyao – an ancient city important for its history as a financial center.”

Harvey, who also is studying for a master’s degree in Translation, Localization and Project Management from Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, and who holds a certificate in Chinese Language and Literature from Middlebury College, also is a freelance translator, doing translations between Mandarin Chinese and American English for different mediums including academic presentations, brochures, instruction manuals, financial documents, essays, PowerPoint presentations, and cultural articles.

 “My favorite thing about translation is the thinking process you have to use, especially in more creative translations where you’re considering the voice and expression in another language,” she says. “Even during law school, I hope to get more into volunteer and freelance translations and practice creative translation projects on my own.”


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