The Bettina E. Pruckmayr Memorial Award is presented each year to a graduating J.D. student who has demonstrated a commitment to international human rights work.

The award honors Bettina Pruckmayr, a 1994 Law Center graduate who was dedicated to advancing human rights and the public interest. During her time at Georgetown Law, Bettina co-founded the German American Law Students Association and served as the chairperson of the Georgetown Law chapter of Amnesty International. After graduation, Bettina served as director of the World Federalist Association’s International Criminal Court project. Bettina’s life was tragically cut short when she was killed in December 1995 during a violent mugging that took place near her home in Washington, D.C.

“Bettina had an inner spark that energized everyone around her,” says Professor Elisa Massimino, Executive Director of the Human Rights Institute. “She was brimming with creative ideas for how to make human rights real in people’s lives. Her example continues to inspire our community.”

Each year, the Human Rights Institute selects one graduating J.D. student who has demonstrated outstanding commitment to human rights work to receive this award. The award winner receives $2,000 through a gift fund established by the Pruckmayr family.

A call for nominations goes out to the campus community every spring, and nominations can be submitted by email to the Human Rights Institute.

2023 Award Winner — Abbey Koenning-Rutherford

Photo of Abbey Koenning-RutherfordAbbey embodies the spirit of Bettina Pruckmayr through their infectious enthusiasm and tireless dedication to fighting injustice, advancing human rights, and fostering community. They are an outspoken advocate and leader at the intersection of Indigenous sovereignty, human rights, and the environment.

As an energizing force on campus, Abbey has used their platform in numerous leadership roles—as the President of the Native American Law Students Association (NALSA), the Vice President of the Georgetown Green Campus Alliance, and a Development Editor for the Georgetown Journal of International Law—to catalyze human rights work within the Georgetown community. As the President of NALSA, Abbey successfully advocated to increase the number of Native students on campus. Fellow law students have described Abbey as both a fearless advocate and an encouraging mentor to students interested in human rights, with an innate ability to create opportunities for collaboration and community-building among Georgetown student groups.

Abbey has tirelessly dedicated their legal work and extracurricular efforts to advancing human rights, particularly at the intersection of environmental law and the sovereignty of Indigenous communities. They have specialized in community impact environmental issues at the Natural Resource Defense Council, EarthRights International, and Earthjustice, where they supported tribal communities to fight for clean water. Last fall, they flew to the Midwest to support Indigenous water defenders’ organizing work, and they worked on a documentary on the rights of Indigenous communities in Wisconsin. Abbey also authored an innovative note published in the Georgetown Law Journal that ecocide should be prosecuted as genocide against Indigenous people.

Abbey has also used every opportunity throughout their coursework and internships during law school to advance the rights of marginalized communities, including immigrants. As a student attorney and later a research assistant for the Center for Applied Legal Studies, Abbey prepared clients’ applications for asylum, including by conducting weekly trauma-informed interviews and advocating to immigration officials. Abbey also externed at Al Otro Lado, where they interviewed asylum clients to support the preparation of their applications. Through the Human Rights Advocacy in Action Practicum, Abbey worked to advance accountability for ISIS’s crimes of genocide and sexual violence against the Yazidis, a marginalized ethnoreligious minority in Iraq.

Following graduation, Abbey will be serving as the Aryeh Neier Fellow at Human Rights Watch and the ACLU, where they will continue to advocate for Indigenous rights.

Past Award Winners


While completing her joint master’s degree in public health, Prashasti co-founded the Anti-Racist Coalition to develop an anti-racist praxis in public health and worked with the Center for a Livable Future to help address the public health and legal challenges facing farmworkers and other food system workers. As a student advocate in the Health Justice Alliance Law Clinic, Prashasti represented low-income families to advance their access to health and well-being. She also led a project to address the persistently high rates of maternal and infant mortality in the Black community in DC.


During law school, Jessica worked with various rights-based organizations. In her first summer, she served as a legal intern for the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy. Later, Jessica became a Legal Fellow at the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre, where she developed a guide on how to pursue justice for crimes committed in the Syrian war through the national courts of the United States. She also was a Student Attorney in the Policy Clinic at Georgetown Law’s Harrison Institute for Public Law and an intern at the Office of the General Counsel at USAID. She was the Dale and James J. Pinto Fellow with RFK Human Rights.


Jacqueline Lewis dedicated much of her law school experience to international human rights advocacy, particularly relating to asylum seekers and refugees. As a Protection Unit Legal Intern for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees during her 1L summer, Jacqueline traveled to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to interview asylum seekers and refugees who had experienced human rights abuses. The next summer, she served as a Georgetown Pinto Summer Associate at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.


During law school, Rachel successfully represented an asylum seeker in immigration court and worked on the trial team prosecuting crimes against humanity and war crimes at an international criminal tribunal in The Hague. She also held positions with the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and the Public International Law and Policy Group, and supported litigation efforts of Georgetown’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection. She was the Dale and James J. Pinto Fellow with RFK Human Rights.


Alicia Ceccanese is the 2019–2020 Legal Fellow for the American Bar Association’s Center for Human Rights. During her time at Georgetown Law, she worked with the Southern African Litigation Centre, the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, the International Women’s Human Rights Clinic, and the Georgetown Human Rights Institute.


Christina LaRocca spent one summer as an intern with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica, allowing her to gain a greater understanding of the mechanisms fueling progress in human rights in the Americas. Christina also served as a student advocate in the Center for Applied Legal Studies. Christina earned a Certificate in Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies.


Michelle was a leader at Georgetown Law on human rights issues and the protection of vulnerable populations. Prior to attending Georgetown Law, Michelle worked with NGOs in Nepal, Uganda, and Ghana, where her work advocating on behalf of school children and victims of sexual and gender-based violence has had a lasting impact. As a student attorney in the International Women’s Human Rights Clinic, Michelle advocated on behalf of Kenyan schoolgirls for their rights to education, freedom of discrimination, and equality before the law.


Megan and Becca were leaders at Georgetown on human rights issues and the protection of vulnerable populations. Megan's work with Disability Rights International in Mexico had a lasting impact. Becca worked with forcibly displaced Filipino children and advocated for policies to protect children from dangerous forms of child labor and trafficking. At Georgetown, both were students in the CALS clinic.


Erin was a student advocate in the International Women's Human Rights Clinic, where she traveled to Ghana to conduct extensive research on sexual harassment and abuse of school girls and reproductive health rights for women and girls. Erin also spent her 1L summer in Ghana at the Human Rights Advocacy Center, engaging in policy/advocacy work and supporting pro bono attorneys to provide direct legal services.


Shaw Drake was a leader amongst his classmates in the Human Rights Fact-finding Practicum, where he worked to support stateless children in accessing public education services in the Dominican Republic. Shaw also worked at several human rights organizations, including the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, and the ICC. Shaw participated in the Guantanamo Observers Project and represented asylum seekers in the CALS clinic.


Elizabeth was a Global Law Scholar and a Human Rights Associate. During law school, she volunteered with the Capital Area Immigrant's Rights Coalition and worked on HRI's International Migrants Bill of Rights. She singlehandedly developed an interactive map that showed statistics and information about trafficking laws in countries around the world.


Wendy was dedicated to supporting the rights of immigrants and refugees in law school. She was a Student Attorney and later a Research Assistant in the CALS clinic. She also worked as a Legal Assistant in Human Rights First's Refugee Protection Program and was a Program Assistant at the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration at the U.S. Department of State.


Charity served on the Georgetown Human Rights Action Board and was the Chair of the Pro Bono Board. She was a student attorney in the CALS clinic and the Community Justice Project clinic. She interned at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica where she analyzed court decisions related to the alleged violation of the economic and social rights and right to due process of Uruguayan citizens affected by the 2002 financial crisis in Uruguay. She also interned with the Human Rights Law Foundation in Washington, DC, where she conducted research and wrote memos for an Alien Tort Statute case against U.S. companies, focused on human rights issues in China.


Kayleen served as Co-President of Amnesty International and Georgetown Human Rights Action. She also served on the fact-finding committee to propose, select, and develop human rights fact-finding projects in dialogue with human rights practitioners. She was a Global Teaching Fellow and earned a Certificate in Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies.


Ian worked as a student attorney in the CALS clinic and was Co-President of Georgetown Human Rights Action. Ian was an articles editor for the Georgetown Journal of International Law and a Global Law Scholar. He earned a Certificate in Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies. He was awarded 1L Public Service Student of the Year for his dedication to public interest work.


Raha's was dedicated to human rights and national security during law school. He interned with Human Rights First in their Law & Security Program and Refugee Protection Program, and he was a law clerk at Open Society Foundations. He also served as managing editor of the Georgetown Journal of International Law, co-president of Georgetown Law’s Amnesty International chapter, and co-director of the Iraqi Refugee Resettlement Fact-Finding Project.


Shana Tabak was a Public Interest Law Scholar and focused on human rights, refugee law, and international law during her time at Georgetown. She was a student advocate in the CALS clinic and served on the Georgetown Journal of Gender and law.


Rebecca Shaeffer was a student director at the Human Rights Institute. She contributed to a report on a comparative look at gang reduction policies and migration in the United States and Guatemala and to a report on refugee victims of the war on terror. She was a law clerk with the ACLU National Prison Project and a law clerk with the Public Defender Service.

Olisa Shaina Cofield Aber

2006 Award Winner

Helki Spidle

2005 Award Winner

Rebecca A. Hammel

2004 Award Winner

Kara Preissel

1999 Award Winner

Scott Alexander Douglas

1997 Award Winner

Mary Price

1996 Award Winner