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Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

Ingrid Eagly ’91

Acting Professor of Law, University of California-Los Angeles School of Law

On my application to Princeton, I wrote that I planned to major in economics. That wasn’t false advertising. I did take classes in economics once I arrived. But I soon realized that my interests and passions did not lie in the supply and demand curve. During my sophomore year, I took courses in both the women’s studies and African American studies programs. With professors such as Christine Stansell, Cornel West, and Toni Morrison, I knew that I had found an intellectual home. I went on to enthusiastically earn certificates in both programs. The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs allowed me to put it all together in a multidisciplinary major. At the Woodrow Wilson School, I was literally able to craft my own education—integrating courses from varied corners of the campus into a single undergraduate program. Psychology, sociology, history, and politics all became part of the foundation for the work that I would go on to pursue.

After graduating from Harvard Law School, I began my career as a civil rights attorney. I worked with low-income communities in a variety of contexts, first at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago, and later at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. My deep commitment to issues of equal justice eventually drew me to indigent criminal defense work, and I became a deputy federal public defender in Los Angeles. 

Building on Princeton roots

After more than a decade as a practicing attorney, I became an acting professor of law at the University of California–Los Angeles School of Law, where I am a member of the Program in Public Interest Law and Policy faculty and teach evidence and criminal defense. My scholarly interests lie in two related areas—which are very much rooted in my work that I began as an undergraduate at Princeton. The first is the intersection between immigration and criminal law, with an emphasis on how the immigration system is influencing criminal justice. The second is the role of law and lawyers in social change, including innovative strategies for shaping institutions and empowering marginalized groups. 

I don’t think I could have predicted at Princeton what I would go on to do, but thinking back on it, Princeton was foundational in the process at many different levels. Princeton provided the guidance and mentorship during the first years of college necessary to really help me find my passions. Never was I told to pick a major because it fit into some predefined career path. Instead, the consistent message was to create an academic program that engaged me in topics I found incredibly interesting. Along those lines, Princeton’s junior paper and senior thesis were quite memorable and sparked my interest in academic work. 

What would be my advice for students entering Princeton now? To take courses that you enjoy, and that challenge you to think in new ways. Enjoy the process of learning. Only too soon will you be longing to go back!