Student eyes career in field of international law

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Wayne Law student Devon Graham-Aiyash was exposed to international travel at an early age. And so when it came time to choose her major at Michigan State University, international relations and affairs was a natural fit.

“My mum was born in the U.K. and immigrated over with my grandparents when she was a child,” Graham-Aiyash said. “With all of our extended family remaining in the U.K, we spent many summers going back to visit everyone. Thanks to these trips, I became infatuated with learning about other countries — their cultures, religions, languages, and of course, food. 

“My MSU major was a clear way to expand my global knowledge past travel and into policy, so I jumped at the opportunity.”

During her final year, Graham-Aiyash did a legislative internship at the Michigan House of Representatives, where she enjoyed speaking with constituents.

“It can sometimes be a trying task, especially when someone is calling about an issue they are angry or frustrated about —nonetheless, helping people directly was always purposeful work,” she says. “I think it’s easy to get frustrated with government and find yourself feeling the system doesn’t work, so to be in a position where I could connect people directly with the resources and answers they needed was very rewarding and refreshing.”

When she then decided to refocus her education on something she could put to good use, law school immediately came to mind.

Now a 2L at Wayne Law, Graham-Aiyash particularly appreciates the school’s sense of community.

“I’ve found a family in my friends, and that was truly something I didn’t expect — I was prepared to come to school, do what I needed to do to succeed, and leave,” she says. “Instead, I’ve met some of the most wonderful people within a community that allows and encourages these types of friendships to blossom.”

When she first entered law school, Graham-Aiyash was interested in prosecuting sex crimes —but as she gained experiences and focused on what she wanted to achieve within her personal life, her focus shifted.

“Through a series of speakers and student groups, my legal eye has begun to wander,” she added. “I remain deeply passionate and committed to the fight against sexual assault and domestic violence and I’m growing to realize I can put those passions to work in more than just one way. I’d like to explore opportunities within family law.

“However, my passion for international relations keeps International Law in the back of my mind.”

Graham-Aiyash serves as dean of the school’s Delta Theta Phi Chapter, overseeing all initiatives from rush events, to speaker series, to diversity initiatives, and ensuring everything runs smoothly.

She also serves on the e-boards of the Women’s Law Caucus and If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice.

Through Wayne Law’s Program for International Legal Studies, Graham-Aiyash was selected for an International Public Interest Law Fellowship to work this past summer with the Center for Democratic Development in Accra, Ghana. But the pandemic put the kibosh on that experience.

While replacement internship opportunities were limited during the pandemic, she landed a summer internship with JD Advising.

“Although it wasn’t legal experience, I was able to flex my writing muscles all summer, learn about the bar exam, work in social media — another interest of mine — and learned several ways to be a better law student,” she said.

She was offered an externship for the winter semester with the Michigan Poverty Law Program working on a mix of family, elder, consumer, housing and public benefits law.

Graham-Aiyash and her husband, a first year medical student at the MSU College of Human Medicine, live at her grandmother’s Oakland County home. For the past four years, Graham-Aiyash has been a live-in caretaker for her 94-year-old grandmother who suffers from dementia.

Before the pandemic, Graham-Aiyash loved to travel, racking up visits to 24 countries.

Her favorite adventures include whitewater rafting the Zimbabwe’s Zambezi River, building a house in Cambodia, cuddling baby elephants in Kenya, and visiting Egypt, where she got engaged to her future husband — the two have now been married for two years.

Boxing has been a passion for the past five years, and Graham-Aiyash has set up a small gym in her garage.

“It’s made a huge difference in managing stress and feeling good. My right hook is especially impressive,” she said with a smile.

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