If you are an advocate, researcher, or attorney who cares about student loan borrowers struggling under the weight of unprecedented levels of debt, we want you to join us in this fight.
The Student Borrower Protection Center’s fellowship program leverages the insight and expertise of established professionals, including attorneys, advocates, and researchers, to drive policy change across the student loan system.
Our Student Loan Justice Fellows collaborate with SBPC experts on a wide range of policy, advocacy, and litigation strategy initiatives. Fellows develop innovative, original research and analysis to expose risks to those with student loan debt, advance efforts to protect borrowers, and change the debate around student debt in America. Fellows may serve as full-time members of our team in Washington, DC or propose a specific, time-limited research project to be completed remotely, on a part-time basis.
About the SLJ Fellowship Program
The SLJ Fellowship program seeks to:
- Unlock expertise on complex policy issues. Experts practicing student loan law or advocating for student loan borrowers are often on the frontlines, working directly with individual borrowers. Our Fellowship Program provides these professionals with the support necessary to expand the reach of their work and to leverage their valuable perspectives to craft student loan policy.
- Bring new perspectives to solving the student debt problem. Experts in consumer law, public policy, sociology, and economics have led successful consumer protection reform efforts at the federal and state levels. A decade ago, these experts led the charge to build new protections for homeowners and halt abuses in the wake of the foreclosure crisis. Their work led policymakers to rein in the credit card industry and halt bad practices by the biggest banks. Our Student Loan Justice Fellows Program brings fresh thinking to the national conversation around student debt. We want to broaden the debate by including experts with outside experience and new ideas to solve one of the nation’s toughest problems.
To learn more about becoming a Student Loan Justice Fellow, email us at email@example.com.
Current and Former Student Loan Justice Fellows
Aryn Bussey is an education policy expert and strategist studying education policy and management at Harvard University.
Aryn spent the last three years as a Policy Analyst in the Office for Students and Young Consumers at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Prior to coming to the Bureau, she served as Policy Advisor for Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43). While on the hill, she specialized in education, women’s science and technology, appropriations, and diversity and inclusion policy. An alumnus of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Emerging Leaders program, she has worked in both the legislative and executive branch of government, including stints at the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP).
Originally from Detroit, Michigan, she is a graduate of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University with a BS in Public Relations and a Ed.M. in Education Policy and Management from Harvard University. Aryn credits her efforts to create the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans as her greatest professional accomplishment to date.
Rachel Goodman is Counsel at Protect Democracy. Until recently, she was a Staff Attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Racial Justice Program, where she focused on economic justice issues, particularly on discrimination in housing and lending, and on algorithmic discrimination. She has also litigated cases addressing discrimination in the subprime mortgage securitization system, racial profiling in air travel, and the school-to-prison pipeline. Ms. Goodman has drafted amicus briefs for proceedings at all levels and engages in direct advocacy to private companies on data and discrimination issues, in partnership with privacy advocates and technologists inside and outside of the ACLU. She clerked for the Honorable Joseph A. Greenaway, III on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. She graduated magna cum laude from New York University School of Law, where she was an Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Liberties and Civil Rights Fellow, and from Yale College.
Chris Hicks is an independent researcher and organizer. He spent the last three years as a Senior Associate at the American Federation of Teachers where he worked on a wide variety of issues but focused on student debt, contingency in higher education, and immigration. Prior to working at the American Federation of Teachers, he led the Debt-Free Future campaign at National Jobs With Justice, focusing on student loan servicing and the impact student debt has on working people. In his various roles, he has authored numerous policy papers and reports on for-profit college financial responsibility, federal and state laws overseeing student loan companies, and how student debt impacts student loan borrowers.
Originally from Wichita, Kansas, he is a graduate of Wichita State University with a BA in Political Science and Sociology, and he currently lives in Washington, DC.
Deanne Loonin (Legal Services Center at Harvard Law School’s Project on Predatory Student Lending)
Deanne Loonin is an attorney and advocate for student loan borrowers, including as an attorney at the Legal Services Center at Harvard Law School’s Project on Predatory Student Lending. She is the former director of the Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project at the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC).
Ms. Loonin is the coauthor of NCLC’s comprehensive legal manual, “Student Loan Law,” and has authored numerous policy papers and reports on student assistance.
Suzanne Martindale (Consumers Union)
Suzanne Martindale serves as Senior Policy Counsel for the advocacy division of Consumer Reports (formerly Consumers Union). Suzanne works out of the West Coast Office in San Francisco, CA and is part of the Financial Policy Team, where she engages in policy and legislative advocacy on a range of consumer finance issues. Her areas of expertise include student loans, banking, payments, debt collection and small-dollar credit. She is the author of several recent publications, including “Campus Banking Products: Students Face Hurdles to Accessing Clear Information and Accounts that Meet Their Needs” (August 2014), “Pay Me How? What You Should Know About Payroll Cards” (July-August 2014), and “Degrees of Debt: Stories from Student Loan Borrowers Highlight Urgent Need for Reform” (November 2013).
Before joining Consumers Union full-time, Suzanne worked for over two years as a law student intern for Consumers Union’s West Coast Office. She received her law degree from University of California, Berkeley School of Law in 2010. While in law school, Suzanne was also a clinical student at the East Bay Community Law Center in Berkeley, CA, where she ran tenants’ rights clinics, defended low-income clients in eviction and debt collection lawsuits, and trained other law students to do direct services work. She was a senior editor for the Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law and served on its executive committee.
Prior to law school, Suzanne was an adjunct instructor at two community colleges in the Chicago metropolitan area. She received a Master’s Degree in the Humanities from the University of Chicago in 2005, concentrating in legal and political philosophy. Suzanne received her undergraduate degree from University of California, Berkeley in 2003 (B.A., magna cum laude, Philosophy). She currently lives in Oakland, CA.
Joanna Pearl is the former Enforcement Chief of Staff and Acting Principal Deputy Enforcement Director for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She most recently served as Chief Operating Officer at Public Rights Project, a nonpartisan nonprofit that empowers state, local, and tribal governments to fight for civil rights and economic and environmental justice for their communities. Joanna previously worked as an Associate at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, where she focused on commercial litigation and employment counseling and defense. Joanna began her career in state government as Legislative Assistant and Chief of Staff to Representative Jay R. Kaufman in the Massachusetts State House of Representatives. She is a graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School.
Tara Ramchandani (Relman, Dane & Colfax)
Tara K. Ramchandani is a partner at Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC, a civil rights law firm based in Washington, D.C. Ms. Ramchandani represents plaintiffs and public interest organizations in individual and class action discrimination cases in federal court. She primarily litigates civil rights cases in the areas of housing, lending, employment and public accommodations.
Ms. Ramchandani’s better-known cases include Saint-Jean, et al. v. Emigrant Mortgage Co., et al., Case No. 11-cv-2122 (E.D.N.Y.), a reverse redlining suit against a New York lender that targeted minority neighborhoods and borrowers with unfair and predatory refinance mortgage loans, resulting in a $950,000 jury verdict for the plaintiffs and findings of liability on all discrimination charges. Other cases include Whyte, et al. v. Alston Management, et al., Case No. 9:10-cv-81041 (S.D. Fla.), a Fair Housing Act jury trial concerning housing discrimination against families with children, resulting in a $1.05 million jury verdict for the plaintiffs; Mary Morgan, et al. v. Richmond School of Health and Technology, Inc., a class action reverse redlining suit against a for-profit college that targeted African Americans and low-income neighborhoods for an education it knew to be inadequate, resulting in a $5 million settlement; and Ross v. Choice Hotels, Inc., a race discrimination case in which the court denied summary judgment and determined that franchisor may be held liable under a theory of apparent agency in public accommodations cases.
In addition to her litigation work, Ms. Ramchandani serves as an adjunct professor at Michigan Law School, and is a frequent lecturer and presenter at universities and legal conferences. She has been named a Washington, D.C. Super Lawyers “Rising Star” from 2014-2018, and was selected as a 2016 Wasserstein Public Interest Fellow at Harvard Law School.
Prior to joining Relman, Dane & Colfax, Ms. Ramchandani was a law clerk for the Honorable Algenon L. Marbley of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. Before her clerkship, she was an associate at Goodwin & Procter, LLP in Boston, Massachusetts. During law school, Ms. Ramchandani was the co-Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. Ms. Ramchandani received her law degree from Harvard Law School and her undergraduate degree from Brown University.
Benjamin Roesch (Jensen Morse Baker)
Benjamin Roesch is an attorney in Jensen Morse Baker’s Seattle office. He focuses his practice on student loan and insurance coverage advice and litigation. As a former managing attorney in the Consumer Protection Division of the Washington Attorney General’s Office, Mr. Roesch represented Washington in complex multistate litigation and investigations into credit rating agencies, and supervised investigations and Consumer Protection Act enforcement actions in the healthcare, pharmaceutical, charitable solicitation, and mortgage servicing industries. Mr. Roesch also led Washington’s investigation of and litigation against Navient for alleged unfair and deceptive practices primarily in the servicing of student loans. Mr. Roesch helped draft Washington’s Student Loan Bill of Rights, which regulates student loan servicers. He and his colleagues also brought successful enforcement actions against two dozen third-party student loan debt adjustment scams.
Mike Saunders (Veterans Education Success)
Mike Saunders is currently the Director of Military and Consumer Policy at Veterans Education Success. As an attorney, Mike also helps advocate for the rights of individual veterans. Mike brings professional experience as a long-time policy advocate for veterans at The Retired Enlisted Association (TREA). As Deputy Legislative Director for 8 years for TREA, Mike represented the interests of enlisted personnel before Congress on tax issues, consumer issues, and veterans benefits.
A third-generation U.S. soldier, Mike served in the Army from 1999 to 2001, in Bravo Company, 1-66 Armor, 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Hood, Texas, the oldest tank regiment in the Army. Mike has degrees in history and economics from the College of William & Mary in Virginia, and a law degree from the University of Richmond.
Brian Shearer (Justice Catalyst)
Brian Shearer is Justice Catalyst’s Litigation Director, where he uses impact litigation and innovative legal practice to advance economic and social justice. Prior to coming to Justice Catalyst, Brian worked for 7 years at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), where he worked on a wide variety of consumer protection issues but focused on student loans, debt collection, payday lending, UDAP, and administrative law. In 2017, Brian was CFPB Director Cordray’s Senior Advisor on all policy issues. Before attending American University Washington College of Law, he was a paralegal for an immigration law firm in Los Angeles. He is admitted to practice law in Virginia.
Austin Smith (Smith Law Group)
Austin Smith runs the Smith Law Group LLP, a litigation boutique in New York. He received his BA in classics from the University of Wisconsin, his JD from the University of Maine, and began his career at a corporate defense firm in Manhattan. After a jury returned a large verdict against one of the firm’s clients in 2015, Austin spent the next day in bankruptcy court and was disturbed by the haphazard process provided to unrepresented individuals. Shortly thereafter, he left the firm in order to devote his practice to protecting debtors through mass and appellate litigation.
Austin’s work has been the subject of considerable academic interest and his cases have been covered widely in the media, including by the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, ABC, CBS, and NBC Nightly News, Bloomberg, NPR, and People en Español. He is putative class counsel in three nationwide class actions against Navient, PHEAA and Nelnet and is currently litigating seven circuit appeals seeking to enforce the rights of student debtors in bankruptcy.
Sabita Soneji (Tycko & Zavareei)
Sabita J. Soneji is a Partner in Tycko & Zavareei’s Oakland office. She focuses her practice on consumer protection class actions and whistleblower litigation. Ms. Soneji has extensive experience in litigation and legal policy at both the federal and state level and a passion for fighting consumer fraud.
Ms. Soneji began that work during her time with the United States Department of Justice, as Senior Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General. In that role, she oversaw civil and criminal prosecution of various forms of financial fraud that arose in the wake of the 2008 recession. For that work, Ms. Soneji partnered with other federal agencies, state attorneys’ general, and consumer advocacy groups. Beyond that affirmative work, Ms. Soneji worked to defend various federal programs, including the Affordable Care Act, in nationwide litigation.
Ms. Soneji has extensive civil litigation experience from her four years with international law firm Baker Botts LLP, her work as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Northern District of California, and her most recent work as Deputy County Counsel for Santa Clara County, handling civil litigation on behalf of the County including regulatory, civil rights, and employment matters. She has successfully argued motions and conducted trials in both state and federal court and negotiated settlements in complex multi-party disputes.
Early in her career, Ms. Soneji clerked for the Honorable Gladys Kessler on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for three years, during which she assisted the judge in overseeing the largest civil case in American history, United States v. Phillip Morris, et al., a civil RICO case brought against major tobacco manufacturers for fraud in the marketing, sale, and design of cigarettes. The opinion in that case – which is over 1600 pages — paved the way for Congress to authorize FDA regulation of cigarettes.Ms. Soneji is a graduate of the University of Houston, summa cum laude, with degrees in Math and Political Science, and Georgetown University Law Center, magna cum laude. After college and before law school, she spent two years living and working in Japan.