When Robin Phillips started at Northwestern University School of Law, she knew she wanted to serve the greater good. After a summer working with a legal aid organization at a time of extreme funding cuts and limited job possibilities, Robin realized it was not a practical choice for her first job. She decided to pursue private practice and volunteer for public interest organizations.
As a lawyer, Robin worked for the law firm of Briggs and Morgan. True to her passion, she volunteered her time and talents with organizations like Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, the Minnesota AIDS Project and The Advocates for Human Rights. It didn't take long for her to realize that this simply wasn't enough.
After seven years, Robin left the law firm and took on the position of Women's Human Rights Program Director with The Advocates for Human Rights. In this role, her skills and passion merged.
"I believe we all have a responsibility to make the world a better place than we found it," explained Robin. "With our women's human rights work, we improve laws and the way the legal system works to protect women against violence in countries around the world and here at home."
In 2002, Robin was promoted to Executive Director. In this role, she oversees all of The Advocates programming, including a school in Nepal for poor children who would otherwise be working as child laborers. One of the girls in the school's first class told Robin how she had desperately wanted to be the first in her family to attend school. Her parents and her five older sisters all worked in the fields. The girl begged, but her parents didn't want her to go. Eventually her sisters helped convince her parents to send the girl to school. She is now attending university and has a world of possibilities ahead of her. When asked how her education has changed her family, the girl said, "now my sisters are all sending their daughters to school."
"I'm excited to provide opportunities for people to engage in human rights work. It improves the lives of those who are served, as well as those who volunteer." For example, in another program, The Advocates has more than 400 volunteer attorneys who take cases for indigent asylum seekers. Not only do they provide high quality, life-saving legal services, many say that the work is the most satisfying they have ever done.
When Robin reflects on her time at Minnetonka High School, there isn't any one experience that stands out. Rather, it was the overall culture of success that impacted her most.
"Teachers met students where they were and helped us reach our goals. I'm very grateful for feeling supported and valued by all the staff, not just the teachers. We were treated like success was the only option," reflected Robin.
As for new graduates, her advice is simple: "Follow your passion. Love what you do and do not be afraid to follow where life leads. Sometimes we end up in wonderful places we never dreamed were possible.