Berkeley Law’s Human Rights Center, or HRC, announced Wednesday that international human rights attorney Betsy Popken will be joining the leadership team as the new Co-Executive Director alongside current Executive Director, Alexa Koenig.
With considerable experience in legal defense as well as working on the ground on peace negotiations with Syria and Yemen, Popken has “a number of skills that make her really well suited” for the role, according to Koenig.
Prior to joining the HRC, Popken worked at the law firm, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, where she worked closely with the Environmental, Social and Governance team as well as creating the Business and Human Rights practice at the firm.
Popken said her team addressed issues such as forced labor and child labor and also worked on “cutting-edge” technology such as responsible artificial intelligence programs that help the business sector preserve human rights.
“We are absolutely thrilled that the Human Rights Center will have the benefit of Betsy’s thought leadership and experience and we know it’s a platform from which Betsy will make an enormous impact,” said Mitch Zuklie, the chairman of Orrick, in an email.
As the new Co-Executive Director of the HRC, Popken will be responsible for overseeing the operations of the center including monitoring the quality of the research, financial management, human resources and strategically mapping out the plans of the center, according to Koenig.
“I’m absolutely thrilled, I can’t imagine anyone more qualified to lead this team into its next decade of operations,” Koenig said.
Established in 1994, the Human Rights Center is a multidisciplinary research center that draws on the expertise of professionals across campus to work together to address overlapping areas of human rights concerns, according to Koenig. The center conducts research, builds human rights violation cases and trains students on how to use emerging tech to investigate human rights atrocities across the globe, Koenig added.
In 2016, the HRC launched its investigations lab where students partner with human rights organizations to use new methods of research and investigation.
“A lot of the students in the lab may, for example, comb social media like Facebook or Twitter or YouTube for evidence of atrocities in Myanmar or in Syria and share them with some of our partners,” Koenig said.
Popken expressed a desire to expand the center’s involvement in climate and environment relief as well as helping businesses develop policies that protect human rights. She also noted that her experience in the “peace agreement, post-conflict context” would be a great asset to the center’s work.
With experience under her belt as a lecturer at Stanford Law School, Popken also expressed interest in eventually teaching classes on campus.
“I’m excited to work with the team here. Every day that I meet with them and talk with them I am so astonished by how much they do and how much they know on different issues,” Popken said.