The top half of a maple leaf in orange, yellow and brown, with Adinkra visual symbols originating in West Africa

Feb. 25, 2021

Law student thrives on creativity of policy-setting

Bety Tesfay will complete her joint Master of Public Policy this spring

For third-year law student Bety Tesfay, the creativity that comes with influencing law and policy drew her to the joint JD/MPP (Master of Public Policy) degree at UCalgary.  

“I initially just wanted to study law, but I soon realized that I really liked the proactive nature of policy that allows you to create policies and directives that affect real people,” explains Tesfay. 

Litigation not her thing 

When she started law school, she had plans to pursue prosecution and litigation, in the areas of human trafficking and sexual assault law. Tesfay quickly discovered that she did not love the idea of being a litigator, and that she would be happier setting her goals wider, perhaps working for government setting policy or legal reform in areas such as poverty law, human rights and environmental law.  

Born to accountant parents in Ethiopia, Tesfay will be only the second lawyer in her family, following in the footsteps of a cousin back home. She completed her undergrad at UCalgary with a combined degree in business and sociology, and has been working as a research assistant for Dr. Jennifer Winter, PhD, at the The School of Public Policy.  

Bety Tesfay

Bety Tesfay will complete her JD/MPP this spring.

‘Time to put words into action’ 

Tesfay also played an instrumental role in the creation of the Calls to Action set out by the Calgary chapter of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) last year and hopes the work of the group helps shed light on racism in Canada.  

“We wanted to take advantage of how motivated and engaged everyone was to address the issues that were taking place last spring and summer,” she says. “It is past time that we move past just acknowledging that there is a problem and putting our words into action. That was one of our goals of the BLSA last summer, to spark meaningful change for our law school and for the legal profession as a whole.” 

Find more Black History Month events and stories from UCalgary.   

Black History Month is a time to learn more about the Canadian stories and the many other important contributions of Black Canadians to the settlement, growth and development of Canada, and about the diversity of Black communities in Canada and their importance to the history of this country.