A Global Good Citizen
Stephanie Richard '94 is a global good citizen with a passion for social justice, exemplifying MPA's tagline, "Dream Big. Do Right." Her legal and policy work in the field of human trafficking is winning awards and improving the lives of people all over the world.
Stephanie and her identical twin sister Nicole started at MPA as second graders. A self-described "late bloomer," Stephanie remembers how MPA's close, warm environment gave her the confidence to take risks and try lots of different things. This has inspired her to take the risks required throughout her bold career.
After graduating from Rice University magna cum laude, with a triple major in English, policy studies, and sociology, Stephanie passed up several great job offers for a chance to follow her dream and join the Peace Corps. "It was especially meaningful to me because our mother had wanted to apply to the Peace Corps the first year it was created, but was talked out of it by people who felt it was inappropriate for women."
It was during Stephanie's posting in a small Ukrainian city that she was first exposed to human trafficking, also called "modern day slavery." There to provide leadership development to youth and deliver interactive teacher training, she saw two female friends—both smart women with Ph.D.s—become mail order brides. At least one ended up in the sex trade. "I saw how it starts with people of limited opportunities who want to improve their lives or the lives of their families. Unfortunately, this initiative and dream for something better can easily turn into exploitation—not just in other countries, but every state in the U.S., too," she explained.
Stephanie studied law at the American University Washington College of Law, where she received a full scholarship. Her interests deepened after working for a woman who helped write the United Nations Trafficking Protocol and the original U.S. law, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. She also helped host one of the first anti-trafficking conferences in the U.S., where key organizations came together for the first time.
Since law school, Stephanie has worked tirelessly at the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), initially providing direct legal services to survivors and now managing a team of paid and pro bono lawyers, while directing policy work with a national coalition of partners. When asked what motivates her despite a daunting load, Stephanie answered, "It's a privilege to work with the survivors. They are unique individuals who've taken these risks to improve their lives or help their families. I find it such an honor to work with them." She also loves the ability to dig into technical aspects of the law and craft cutting-edge policy. Two big priorities right now are to develop better data for supporting critical policy work and to bring survivor voices to the advocacy community and key decision makers.
Recalling MPA's impact, she credits the school with her passion for learning and her education in written and oral communication. "Writing has been the foundation of my career, and I know that MPA played a key role in helping me develop those valuable skills," she said.
Stephanie maintains a feeling of closeness with her classmates, claiming to know every alum (at least from her class and earlier years) who is living in the Los Angeles area. "One MPA friend even moved into the neighborhood after coming to my housewarming party!"