“I chose West Virginia because the challenges and the spirit of the state mirror my own.”
Alison Peck believes one of the most valuable things an individual can have in life is the opportunity to understand, develop and give of their own potential — something she has learned throughout her educational and professional journey.
Before joining the West Virginia University College of Law faculty in 2009, Peck practiced international arbitration and commercial litigation as a senior attorney at Boies Schiller Flexner LLP in Washington, D.C.; worked as a law clerk for the Honorable Judge Jon Newman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit; and served as a research associate for the National Agricultural Law Center, among other things.
“The most important thing I learned from all these combined experiences is that it is absolutely essential to devote yourself to work you’re passionate about,” says Peck.
Today, as a professor of law, co-director of the immigration law clinic and director of international programs at the WVU College of Law, Peck divides her time between teaching, scholarship and service. She teaches eager first-year law students a common law course with importance for West Virginia while also working with a small group of dedicated clinic students on lawyering skills, client relations and a complex and technical federal regulatory field. She fosters and supports the burgeoning immigration law bar in West Virginia to expand access in the state to counsel through her service work and directly works on creative ideas to combat global poverty through the Bujuuko Foundation, a nonprofit she founded with Job Kasule that fosters young entrepreneurs and peer mentors in West Virginia and Uganda.
Growing up, Peck wanted to be a writer and crafted stories on her grandfather’s Smith Corona typewriter. Those very moments were laying the foundation for her future as a successful published author. In her recent book, “The Accidental History of the U.S. Immigration Courts: War, Fear and the Roots of Dysfunction,” Peck uses unstudied legal decisions from the Franklin Roosevelt and George Bush administrations to outline humanitarian crises that led to the modern immigration court system. She was recently presented with WVU College of Law’s 2021 Significant Scholarship Award for her work.
“My colleagues have honored me with the Significant Scholarship Award three times,” she says. “Writing is now, as it was at my grandparents’ house in 1978, one of my deepest pleasures. We have a wonderful and growing group of scholars doing important and cutting-edge scholarship, so to be selected by my peers for recognition among this group is an honor I don’t take lightly.”
In 2005, after years of law practice, Peck was burnt out and left Washington, D.C., to study agricultural law in Fayetteville, AR.
“I didn’t know if I would ever choose to practice law again, but the question of how life can be sustained without overconsuming resources resonated deeply with me after years of exhausting big-city law practice,” she recalls. “One winter, I picked up ‘The End of Poverty’ by economist Jeffrey Sachs. When I closed that book, I had a conviction that it is possible to end global poverty. I got up from my sofa in 2007 and started work that has continued since.”
This revelation deeply inspired Peck’s efforts in sustainable development, immigration law and global poverty, which ultimately led her to West Virginia. She has created a successful career for herself as an educator, author and nonprofit executive, and she believes living in the Mountain State has contributed to her success, both professionally and personally.
“I chose West Virginia because the challenges and the spirit of the state mirror my own,” she says. “Blessed with natural resources that have added great value to the state’s progress, West Virginia has also been subject to overuse and exhaustion, and many West Virginians today are actively searching for a new way forward.”