Profile: Neda Shahram ’18
March 08, 2017
It has been a busy year for second-year law student Neda Shahram. In addition to handling a full load of law school courses, Shahram’s extra-curricular activities in the past few months have included managing artists, conducting international relations, and starting a non-profit, all of which have taken her to Mexico, Boston and soon to Tanzania, Johannesburg, and Washington, D.C.
To understand how this all came about, it’s helpful to know more about Shahram herself. She is a native of Iran, but was raised in Seattle. Her father, an international award-winning film composer, was a huge influence on her and she spent much of her childhood on stage; through ballet, piano, gymnastics, jazz, pit orchestra, even performing as a flautist for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Orchestra.
While her childhood experiences pointed her in the direction of a performing career, Shahram chose to focus her future behind the scenes. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Music Business Management and Philosophy from Berklee College of Music and a master’s degree in Global Entertainment and Music Business at Berklee Valencia (Spain). Through her studies and experiences, Shahram eventually found her calling at the intersection of intellectual property and international law, leading her to pursue a law degree. She chose to attend Lewis & Clark Law School because it offers programs in both IP and international law, and for the location in the Pacific northwest.
Exposure to her international law courses have been particularly impactful. “I learned my initial focus on the music industry and entertainment law would not do my dreams justice,” said Shahram. “I learned, as I sat in classes like International Human Rights, that my eagerness to use strategic and cultural diplomacy to bridge gaps between nations does not have to park itself in one industry in such a narrow way.”
Last semester, she enrolled in Professor John Grant’s Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) workshop seminar and volunteered to serve as the class communications officer. The selected topic for the class was Somaliland’s struggle for statehood, and as the communications officer, Shahram acted as liaison with UNPO representatives based in Europe who had a history of involvement with Somaliland and its pursuit of statehood. Her interactions with government officials led to a personal invitation by the Foreign Minister of Somaliland to present the class report, which she and another classmate will do at an upcoming conference in D.C.
“Personally, I foresee myself working between interested parties and governments to facilitate more dialogue,” said Shahram. For now she says that work is “between authors and the subject of their papers, but I learned that the dialogue need not end once the report is produced. The report can be given life – in front of an interested audience.”
In her spare time, Shahram explores other passions. She helped found a nonprofit with a former Berklee classmate and artist/music educator, Gerami Groover, whom Shahram has worked closely with over the years. Groover was invited by the Obama administration to be the first Mandela Washington Fellow for the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Reverse-Exchange program with Swaziland to host a high-caliber music education program for youth entitled Emandla Emculo (Power of Music). Gerami Groover Presents (GGP) is a collective of artists who together will reinvent how the music of Africa and its diaspora will be preserved and presented through innovative technology and formal music education.
Last month, they held their first conference and educational outreach events in Boston under a joint initiative with the Center for Artistry and Scholarship and Hamilton-Garrett Music Academy. During the launch, three renowned artists from Swaziland, South Africa, and Chile came together to teach, record music, share their GGP initiatives, and perform with and to the youth of Boston and the Boston community at large.
This summer, Shahram will head to Tanzania for an externship at Arusha Women Legal Aid and Human Rights Organization. Following her externship, she will travel down to South Africa to see Gerami Groover Presents carry out Witness Matlou’s initiative.
When asked how law school has shaped her career, Shahram answers, “At the end of the day, any educational experience is what you make it. There will always exist, those to whom you are indebted, for their support and guidance, alongside obstacles that are presented in your path. But as Persian poet Saadi described, ‘Were the diver to think on the jaws of the shark, he would never lay hands on the precious pearl.’”
Shahram is certainly making the most of her time in law school. Her future promises more of the same as she plans to continue to pursue opportunities in international law and the arts, and to enjoy the beautiful and fascinating places life may take her.