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Meet Arabella Walley, '24

Arabella Walley

Arabella Walley

Arabella Walley, who is graduating from Stanford with a bachelor's in international relations and a minor in human rights, says her education has provided her with a comprehensive understanding of the “conflicts, dilemmas, and human rights abuses that occur globally.”

“Choosing these two subjects was, in fact, my way of trying to understand the world around me a little bit better,” she explained. “And while there is still much more for me to learn, I feel emboldened and excited to start thinking toward potential solutions.”

Following graduation, she will pursue a John Gardner Public Service Fellowship, which allows graduating seniors to work for 10 months in a public service or social impact organization of their choice alongside a mentor who is a senior leader.

“I'm hoping to work at the state or city level in U.S. immigration policy as I plan to pursue a lifelong career in this field,” shared Walley. “After years of studying immigration, I am incredibly excited to begin my career in human rights and learn more about what it takes to reform a system as complex (and flawed) as the U.S. immigration system.”

In the interview below, Arabella reflects on her favorite class, her honors research project, and memorable experiences from her time at Stanford.

What has been your favorite class at Stanford and why?

It's so difficult to choose just one class since I've had the privilege of exploring so many different fields and issue areas during my time at Stanford. However, the one that I think about most often is a class I took my sophomore spring called Advanced Spanish Service-Learning: Migration, Asylum & Human Rights at the Border taught by Vivian Brates. In this service-learning class, we were assigned a shift on Freedom For Immigrants’ national detention and abuse reporting hotline. Through the first-hand accounts of ICE detainees, I was made acutely aware of the various human rights abuses that occur in detention centers across the country—where freezing and unsanitary living conditions, solitary confinement, family separation, and sexual abuse are systemically prevalent. Although often heartbreaking, hearing these stories was significant for deepening my commitment to creating a more just and humane U.S. immigration system.

What kind of research and co-curricular activities did you participate in during your time at Stanford?

The most meaningful, eye-opening, and challenging project that I have pursued at Stanford was my honors thesis through the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law. For over a year, I researched how social media and the internet function as a resource for migrants during their migration journey. Using a qualitative approach, I interviewed 37 individuals from Central and South America about their experience migrating to the United States.

During my junior year, I served as co-president of the Cardinal Policy Group—a student organization that partners with California elected officials and policy organizations to research and develop strategies to tackle pressing policy challenges. In three years, we went from having 10 members and zero clients, to successfully recruiting over 60 students, and assisting nine policy organizations with research and strategy development.

I have also really enjoyed my position as an RA on campus where I work on a team of four people to develop and implement a positive living community for 50 upper-class residents. From throwing parties to organizing self-care nights, it has been incredibly rewarding to connect with my peers and help create a positive and welcoming space on campus.

Tell us your favorite major/minor/program-related story or experience.

One of my favorite memories that I associate with the Center for Human Rights & International Justice is the family dinner that I attended in the fall. It was very grounding to come together and share a meal with people who have interests similar to mine. Not to mention, it was wonderful to see so many familiar faces—from those I look up to, to the newer members of the community who are just starting to find their footing. It's a very special space and one that I feel connected to even when I am not physically at Stanford.

As you reflect on your time at Stanford, what are you most proud of?

As I reflect on my time at Stanford, I am most proud of how much I've grown into myself. I feel much more confident in my abilities and also more aware of what makes me happy. I am especially proud of this because my first two years at Stanford were far from idyllic. After the pandemic forced my freshman year online, I found it difficult to adjust back to the rhythm of socializing and finding community during my sophomore year. All the while trying to keep up in such a fast-paced academic environment, I doubted myself a lot. But little by little, I found incredible people who continue to show me so much love and support. I discovered what my strengths are and realized that I am capable of doing hard things! I truly learned so much about myself in those first two years at Stanford, and for that, I will always be proud and grateful.