Attorney Brings Experience Fighting Human Trafficking to UCF

The Center for the Study of Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery at UCF has recently recruited the talents of lawyer Shilpa Finnerty to serve as its senior fellow and community advisor. Through Finnerty’s experience in human rights and trafficking advocacy, the center hopes to expand their presence in the Orlando area.

“The work that we are doing here in Orlando is very personal,” said Finnerty. “We are all about ‘What can we do? What can we implement? Who can we talk to?’”

After graduating from Emory University and working in the non-profit advocacy sector for organizations like the Pew Charitable Trust in Washington D.C., Finnerty transitioned into the world of legislative reform work.

“I started working on reform work in the foster care system and applied to law school with the culmination of experiences I’ve had thus far,” said Finnerty. “I saw inequalities and they struck a chord with me. I knew that I wanted to dedicate my life to this.”

Finnerty has a passion when it comes to fighting for those who do not have a voice. In fact, it was this notion that drove her to attend law school at George Washington University, D.C., in the first place. After graduating from law school, Finnerty joined the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST) as a legal fellow. ATEST is comprised of several leading human rights and anti-trafficking organizations like Polaris Project, Humanity United, Vital Voices, and Coalition for Immokalee Workers. She also worked as a legislative aid on Capitol Hill.

“I grew up here in the United States with a lot of privilege. My parents are from India and periodically we’d go back to visit. I was shocked every single time by the differences in common securities and rights, and it made me very cognizant of that fact that not everyone has the safety we do in the States,” said Finnerty.

When she isn’t spending her time consulting at UCF and contributing to research, Finnerty teaches as an adjunct professor at Rollins college and is the project manager for the World Affairs Council of Central Florida.

The late John Bersia originally introduced Finnerty to UCF’s efforts against human trafficking. Her hope for the future of the hub is to see engagement with the survivors and better access to data and research.

“We need to engage the survivors most importantly because they are everything. They are the people who have been through these horrors and end up fighting the trauma alone or not at all. They bring truth and perspective,” said Finnerty.



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