Gardner Fellow Focused on Legal Policy and Advocacy

Lernik Begian
May 5, 2016

Lernik Begian is a 2016-17 Gardner Fellow from UC Berkeley. 

Lernik was born in Karaj, Iran (her family had to leave Tehran because of the Iran-Iraq War). In Iran, a woman’s testimony in court is legally worth half a man’s; a woman can never become a judge; and a woman cannot leave the country without her father’s permission, or if married, her husband’s. As a young girl, Lernik wanted to pursue a career in law to change the Iranian legal system, but there was little opportunity, especially as an ethnic Armenian born to a Christian family.

Lernik and her family moved from Iran to Glendale, CA in 2010 where she enrolled in Glendale Community College for two years, starting her education with an ESL III level of English knowledge. At Glendale Community College, Lernik co-founded the Law and Politics Advocacy Club, which organized political events, promoted school policy reforms encouraged student activism, and funded scholarships.  

Lernik transferred to UC Berkeley in her junior year. At UC Berkeley, she focused her studies on political science and international relations but also took classes on racial and ethnic politics, game theory, and economics. Not shying away from taking some of the toughest social science classes at CAL, Lernik excelled at her studies, receiving a 3.97 GPA. 

Outside of the classroom, Lernik volunteered at the Department of Public Social Services, joined the Justice Corps program and interned at the Superior Court of California. She helped low-income litigants who could not afford professional legal representation complete legal forms, provided them with important legal information and referrals, facilitated legal workshops, and helped with translation (she is fluent in Farsi and Armenian). She also assisted judges and attorneys, drafted briefings of court hearings, and prepared court orders. These public service opportunities gave her first-hand experience with the inequality of economic and legal resources in the United States and how this inequality can limit a low-income individual’s opportunity and mobilization efforts. 

For her Gardner Fellowship, Lernik would like to deepen her understanding of the US legal system, with a particular interest in criminal justice reform, women's rights, and corporate tax reform. She hopes to join a federal agency in order to learn more about the policy making and evaluation process.