MORGANTOWN – Jennifer Oliva finds herself in the rarest of company based on her commitment to touch the lives of as many West Virginia veterans in need as she possibly can.
The associate professor of law and public health at West Virginia University was recently named a Bellow Scholar by the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) for her work as director of the Veterans Advocacy Law Clinic, where she specializes in interdisciplinary research aimed at helping vets released from prison return to society and get their lives back on track.
Oliva was one of just four Bellow Scholars selected this year and the first WVU professor to ever be so honored.
“I deeply respect and admire the truly amazing clinicians who award the honor and are themselves Bellow Scholars, Oliva told The West Virginia Record. “Moreover, I was selected in a cohort of powerhouse clinical legal scholars. It feels both humbling and inspiring to receive this honor and be in the company of such amazing colleagues.”
Jennifer Oliva, inaugural director of WVU's Veterans Advocacy Clinic
Still, Oliva sees her work as only beginning. Over the next two years, she will work hand-in-hand with previously named Bellow Scholars to enhance the quality of the program even more. She will also be provided the stage to present her work at AALS conferences and workshops all over the country.
As it is, Oliva views anything that allows her to advance the Advocacy Clinic’s cause as a godsend.
“Directing the West Virginia Veterans Advocacy Clinic, which enables me to work with students to represent our deserving West Virginia veteran neighbors, is the most important and fulfilling work that I’ve ever performed,” she said. “My ultimate goal would be to build up the resources and staff at the Veterans Advocacy Clinic so that the clinic was capable of representing every veteran in need of civil legal services throughout our state.”
Recruited by Provost Joyce McConnell, Oliva arrived at WVU with a clear and distinct plan for the future.
“I believe that the best way to develop additional resources for the Clinic is to continue to work hard every day and dedicate one hundred percent effort to the Clinic’s mission, which is to improve the lives of West Virginia veterans,” she said.
The Bellow Scholars award is named in honor of Gary Bellow, the late Harvard law professor largely credited with pioneering modern clinical legal education.