Meet our Team



Alexa Shabecoff, Esq., Assistant Dean for Public Service, has been with OPIA since 1994 after having served as the Wasserstein Fellow-in-Residence at OPIA during the Fall of 1993. Before joining OPIA, Alexa worked for over seven years as a legal services attorney in Boston and St. Louis. While in legal services, she specialized in housing law and participated in litigation, policy advocacy, and community education. She is a 1986 graduate of New York University School of Law, where she was a Root Tilden Scholar and Vice President of the Public Interest Law Foundation, and a 1982 cum laude graduate of Brandeis University. During law school she worked for the ACLU Women's Rights Project, Office of the City Council President in New York, Legal Aid Society of New York, and Coalition for the Homeless. Between college and law school, she spent a year as a paralegal with the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund in Kentucky. She is a member of the Lead Boston Class of '99. Alexa received the Suzanne L. Richardson Staff Appreciation Award from the Harvard Law School Class of 2004. 

Advising areas: Children's issues; civil rights and civil liberties; Department of Justice (spring only); domestic economic development; education issues; environmental law; general advising; human rights; immigration; legal services, NGOs; nonprofits; and private public interest law firms.



Judith Murciano, Associate Director and Director of Fellowships. She holds a faculty appointment and has been an Allston Burr Senior Tutor at Harvard College, serving as a dean for the largest residential college at Harvard. For seventeen years she has advised students on fellowships and supervised public interest programs. She has taught Constitutional Law and Writing at Harvard College, advised honors theses at Princeton University and researched her Ph.D dissertation on censorship with graduate fellowships at Cambridge and Oxford Universities. Every semester for almost two decades she has won teaching awards and recently received a Faculty Innovation grant to design several new courses at the University. She served as Legislative Director and Acting Executive Director of the New Jersey ACLU, chaired the New Jersey Bar's Juvenile Justice Committee, and clerked for a criminal court judge in the Bronx. She has also written political essays for The New Yorker and The New York Times, as well as human rights articles for the International Herald Tribune and Radio Free Europe while working for Amnesty International in Paris. Judith was a recipient of the 2008 Dean's Award for Excellence at Harvard Law School and the  Suzanne L. Richardson Staff Recognition Award from the class of 2010.

Advising areas: Fellowships.

Catherine Pattanayak, Esq., Associate Director, joined OPIA in the spring of 2009 after practicing law in both the public and private sectors. Before joining OPIA, Catherine worked as a senior attorney with the NIH Branch of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the General Counsel. During her three year tenure at HHS, Catherine served as the lead Branch attorney for grants policy, compliance and enforcement issues and international legal issues, and received, among other performance awards, three NIH Director’s Awards, the highest award given by the NIH. Prior to her government service, Catherine worked as a health care associate in the Boston office of Ropes & Gray LLP. Catherine is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School (’04), where she served on the Board of Student Advisers, and a magna cum laude graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service (’99). Between college and law school, Catherine worked as a Research Analyst with the Chemical and Biological Arms Control Institute in Washington, DC. In 2014, Catherine was the recipient of the Dean's Award for Excellence.

Advising areas: Federal government, general advising, health law, environmental law, criminal prosecution and defense, and Department of Justice.


Renay Frankel, Esq., Assistant Director, joined OPIA in 2014 after practicing for 8 years in the public sector.  Prior to joining OPIA, she served as the Community and Legal Resources Coordinator at the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS), a position she created to expand CPCS’ holistic defense practice and address clients’ civil legal issues. In this role, she provided training and advice to court-appointed criminal defense attorneys in Massachusetts regarding the civil consequences of criminal cases. She also facilitated collaboration between the public defender agency, civil legal services providers and community partners in order to support public defender clients.  In 2009, she was the recipient of a Soros Justice Advocacy Fellowship.  She previously worked as a public defender for the Committee for Public Counsel Services and as a housing attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services.  Renay is a graduate of Northeastern University Law School (’06) and Skidmore College (’01). During law school, Renay worked for the New York Civil Liberties Union, San Francisco Public Defender, LevyRatner, P.C., and the Youth Advocacy Division of CPCS. She was also a student attorney and teaching assistant in the Northeastern Law School Prisoners’ Rights Clinic.  Prior to attending law school, Renay worked at a labor and employment law firm and a labor union in New York City.

Advising areas: General advising, criminal prosecution and defense


Micah Nemiroff, Assistant Director for Programs and Operations, joined OPIA  from Harvard Medical School where he worked in a curriculum support office. Prior to Harvard Medical School, Micah worked on campaigns in Southeastern Pennsylvania and as a government relations intern with the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago. He received his BA in history and political science from Syracuse University in Upstate New York. Micah is an avid hiker who enjoys getting out to the White Mountains at every opportunity. He also enjoys music, and has played drums for over 20 years. Micah was also a 2014 recipient of the Harvard Heroes award.





Linda Ellersick, Program Coordinator, joined us from the University of Montana’s Office of International Programs, where she served as Media Information Specialist and Assistant to the Director and before that, as Study Abroad Coordinator.  Linda has a BA in International Affairs from Xavier University and an MA in International Studies and Latin American Studies from Ohio University, where she worked as a Graduate Assistant in the Latin American Studies Program. She enjoys practicing Aikido and yoga, gardening, traveling, cooking, biking, and hiking. 




Joan Ruttenberg, Esq., Director of the Heyman Fellowship program, joined OPIA in the fall of 2004. Joan's professional experience spans both academia and government law practice. For many years, Joan taught health law, political science, health economics and legal research and writing in a variety of academic settings: Boston University School of Law, the University of Chicago Law School, Northeastern University Law School, Brandeis University, Wellesley College, and the Graduate Program for Health Care Administration at Simmons College. Prior to teaching, she served as an Assistant Attorney General in Massachusetts, with responsibility for administrative litigation, rulemaking and legislative activities concerning health care and insurance. Before beginning law practice, Joan clerked for Judge Francis D. Murnaghan on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Baltimore and was a Bigelow Teaching Fellow and Lecturer in Law at the University of Chicago Law School. Joan is a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Illinois ('78) and a cum laude graduate of the Harvard Law School ('82).

Advising areas: Department of Justice;  election law; federal government;  health law; state and local government; criminal prosecution, and U.S. Attorney careers.


Carolyn Stafford Stein, Esq., Assistant Director for Alumni Advising, is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney in the United States Attorney's Office in Boston where she worked in the Public Corruption and Special Crimes Unit, the Economic Crimes Unit, and the Major Crimes Unit, and directed the Student Intern Program. Carolyn has also served as Special Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. As a Lecturer at HLS, she taught Government Lawyer and supervised students in clinical placements and in third-year papers relating to issues in prosecution. An advisor to Acre Family Childcare in Lowell, Massachusetts, Carolyn is active in working for economic independence for women and high quality early childhood education in low-income and immigrant neighborhoods in Lowell. Carolyn’s previous experience includes clerking for the Honorable Robert E. Keeton of the District of Massachusetts, and working as an associate with firms in San Francisco and Boston. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1985 and was a member of the Harvard Law Review.

Advising areas: Alumni.


Daniel Ahearn, Esq., Attorney Advisor, practices disability, special education, education, and children's law. Dan provides representation in special education matters for children in state custody; provides consultation and training on legal issues for schools and parents; and serves as a mediator in special education disputes. Dan currently teaches a Children & Disability Law course at Suffolk University Law School, teaches in the First Year Program at Boston University School of Law and works in the education field at the Landmark School. He chairs the annual Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) seminars, Key Issues in Special Education and School Law Basics; is a contributing author to School Law (a MCLE publication), and has authored legal guides for parents for the Learning Disabilities Association. His background includes work as the Director of the Massachusetts Bureau of Special Education Appeals; as Senior Attorney at the Disability Law Center, focused in the areas of special education and disability law; as Managing Attorney at the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, where he provided counsel and representation for psychiatric facilities and programs, and as a law clerk to federal judge Robert J. Yock. He received his M.A. in Education from Tufts University and his law degree from Suffolk University Law School where he served as an editor on the Suffolk Law Review.

Advising areas: Children's issues, disability, education issues, general advising and health law. 



Virginia (Ginny) Greiman, Esq., Attorney Advisor, has more than 20 years of experience in federal and state government public policy positions as an appointee of the U.S. Attorney General to the U.S. Department of Justice, as an international consultant to the U.S. Department of State in Eastern and Central Europe, as well as an Administrative Law Judge and General Counsel to several State agencies. Presently, she is the Deputy Director and Chief Legal Counsel, Executive Office of Economic Development, Department of Business and Technology for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Before this appointment, she served as Litigation Counsel and Director of Risk Management to the Central Artery/Tunnel Project. She has extensive teaching experience as an adjunct and visiting professor of International and Corporate Law at Georgetown University Law Center, Boston University School of Law, and as a faculty fellow to Oxford University in Comparative International Law. She also serves as a teaching assistant to the Trial Advocacy Program at Harvard Law School. Ginny has served on many boards including Women in World Trade, the Massachusetts Office of Minority and Women Business Assistance, and the British American Business Council of New England and she is a member of the Federalist Society. She has published extensively and lectures internationally. Ginny holds a B.S. Degree from Pennsylvania State University, M.Ed. from Boston University, J.D. from Suffolk University Law School, and LL.M. from Boston University School of Law.

Advising areas: Conservative/Libertarian; Department of Justice; domestic and international economic development; federal government; international; LLM, state and local government. 


Nima Rajabipour Eshghi, Esq., Attorney Advisor. Nima Eshghi joined OPIA in 2010 after practicing law in both the public and private sectors.  Prior to joining OPIA, Nima worked as a staff attorney at GLAD (Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders) in Boston where she was a member of the legal team that successfully challenged the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the First Circuit.   Additionally, she worked on a key case involving a school district’s right to include LGBT inclusive books in the classroom, handled several family and youth matters, and supervised GLAD's legal internship program.  Nima also has experience in Legal Services.  From 2000-2003, she was a Staff Attorney and Clinical Instructor at Harvard Law School’s Wilmer Hale Legal Services Center, where she represented clients living with HIV/AIDS in guardianship proceedings, health care access and estate planning while supervising clinical students.  Nima has twice taught as an Adjunct Professor at Northeastern University School of Law.  Her private sector experience includes having worked as an associate at Foley Hoag and serving as Director of Professional Development at Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge.  Nima began her legal career as a law clerk to Chief Justice Herbert P. Wilkins of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.  During law school, she completed internships with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington (Seattle), the Honorable Reginald C. Lindsay of the District Court of Massachusetts, the AIDS Law Clinic at Harvard Law School’s Legal Services Center, and two large law firms.  Prior to law school, Nima worked in HIV/AIDS education and advocacy.   Nima has extensive Board experience, including having recently completed a 6-year term as a Trustee of Shady Hill School (Cambridge), and having previously served on the Boards of GLAD and the Boston Women’s Fund. 

Nima earned her J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law, a Master's in Political Science from the University of Washington, and B.A. from Smith College. 

Advising areas: Civil rights and civil liberties, disability, education, health, legal services, nonprofits, nontraditional careers, private public interest law firms, and women's issues.



Susan Farbstein, Co-Director of the International Human Rights Clinic and an Assistant Clinical Professor at Harvard Law School. Her areas of focus include Southern Africa, transitional justice, Alien Tort Statute litigation, community lawyering, and economic, social, and cultural rights. She is an expert on South Africa, having worked on a variety of human rights and transitional justice issues in that country for nearly fifteen years. She is also an expert on Alien Tort Statute litigation and serves as co-counsel in In re South African Apartheid Litigation, a suit against major multinational corporations for aiding and abetting human rights violations committed by the apartheid state. She is also co-counsel inMamani v. Sanchez de Lozada, which brings claims against the former Bolivian president and defense minister related to a 2003 civilian massacre. She participated in litigating Wiwa v. Shell, which charged Shell with complicity in the torture and killing of non-violent Nigerian activists in the mid-1990s and successfully settled in 2009. She has authored numerous amicus curiae briefs, including to the Supreme Court in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., Presbyterian Church of Sudan v. Talisman, and Samantar v. Yousuf. Farbstein has also engaged on a range of transitional justice issues in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Namibia, Mozambique, Angola, Myanmar, Thailand, and Argentina. Her recent work focuses on questions of accountability for apartheid-era abuses in South Africa; efforts to advance the right to equitable, quality education guaranteed by South Africa’s constitution; the promotion and protection of economic, social, and cultural rights in Zimbabwe; and policy reform to improve civilian protection and change military behavior in Myanmar. Farbstein previously worked at the Cape Town office of the International Center for Transitional Justice. Prior to that, she clerked for the Honorable Morris E. Lasker of the Southern District of New York. She holds a B.A. from Princeton University, an M.Phil. from the University of Cambridge, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. 

Advising areas: Human rights, international. 

There Webb, Staff Assistant. Thera Webb came to OPIA from Northeastern University’s School of Nursing where she was Program Assistant for the PhD and DNP degrees. Thera has a BA in Gender Studies from the New School and an MFA in Poetry from the University of North Carolina in Greensboro. She is a published poet and acts as an editor for a local small press.

Rebecca Donaldson, Student International Advisor.  Becca Donaldson is a 2L at HLS. Her work focuses on gender and human rights in international law. During her 1L summer, Donaldson interned as a Chayes Fellow at Namati, a legal empowerment non-profit based in D.C. that provides research, network-building, and advocacy to their grassroots paralegal partners around the world. At HLS, Donaldson is Co-Vice President of the Advocates for Human Rights as well as a Submissions Editor and Article Editor for the International Law Journal. Before HLS, Donaldson worked at Vital Voices Global Partnership, an international women's leadership non-profit based in Washington D.C., where she helped coordinate G-20 advocacy efforts and the Bank of America Global Ambassadors Program. Prior to that, Donaldson helped start the Northwestern University campus in Doha, Qatar, establishing campus leadership and civic engagement opportunities for students. She has researched the evolving norms around volunteerism and civil society in the United Arab Emirates as a Fulbright Fellow. She also worked with the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children to establish their inaugural human trafficking report and intake procedures. Donaldson researched and wrote her senior honors thesis on civic engagement in Sierra Leone as a Newton Minow Fellow. She holds a B.A. from Northwestern University in Communication Studies and Political Science with a certificate in French. She has also studied Arabic in Egypt as a Critical Language Enhancement Award grantee.

Last modified: March 13, 2015

© 2015 The President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved.