Angie Liao

Translating Human Rights

Maybe it’s the yoga. Or maybe it’s her natural serenity. But more than likely, it’s Angie Liao’s knowledge that being frazzled does nothing to advance the human rights issues that fuel her near-unparalleled commitment to the lives of the people around her.

Despite the constant bustle of the many passions and responsibilities that surround this senior Gallatina’s life, she does not project an aura of disarray. Her bushel of energy parallels her demanding life, and Liao commits her all to each and every task placed in front of her.

As a child of immigrants, Liao had spent much of her life distanced from her roots. But in hopes of getting in touch with her Chinese heritage, Liao applied for the Gallatin Human Rights Fellowship to work in a large public interest law firm in Beijing during the summer of 2014.

While there, she also worked on a research project focused on civil and political human rights in China. Although her desire to learn more about her Chinese background drove her to apply for the fellowship, her subsequent work then took her down a human rights rabbit hole few have followed.

“It happened really out of nowhere,” she said. “I cared so deeply about it, more than most things I had ever done before in my life.”

Now a Gallatin senior concentrating in Human Rights Law and Human Expression, paired with a minor in Social and Cultural Analysis, Liao is deeply invested in human rights work and focuses on immigration, especially within the Chinese community.

Liao is currently the co-founder and director of the Cantos Translations Public Interest Fellowship; an intern with the Liberty and National Security program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law; and a supporter and fellow at the Humanity in Action Foundation. Her heritage continues to influence the work she does today.

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Her work with the Cantos Translations Public Interest Fellowship provides free translation and interpretation services to various community-based organizations in New York that directly benefit Chinese immigrants in the area. She believes the community is sometimes underserved because of its roots.

“The Chinese immigrant community is not always as visible as other populations,” Liao said. “Because they are so historically rooted, people forget they are there, and they still face challenges.”

Liao also continues her work at Humanity in Action, where she was named a fellow in 2016 and hopes to lead a fellowship there in the future. She currently does administrative work in the New York office, but her original fellowship took her to Warsaw, Poland.

While working in Europe, she was a vital part of a campaign that helped bring native Poles and immigrants together to find common ground in what they both love about their country. Her group’s Facebook page, Inicjatywa Dom Pl, raked in over double the initial two-week goal for likes.

Alex Granato, a friend who accompanied Liao to Warsaw, saw Liao’s extraordinary impact, especially in how she speaks with great thought and even greater empathy. Granato lauded Liao’s natural talent for considering the views of others, while still voicing her own thoughts.

“It is truly rare to meet a person bettering the world who is also diligently working to better themselves,” Granato said. “But Angie is. She asks questions of herself, she asks more of herself, she considers and challenges and reflects. It is one of the most inspiring things I have ever seen, and it tells me that not only will she make a difference in this world, but that it will be the kind of difference that lasts. That matters.”

Liao’s character and work ethic make her stand out among peers, and her former supervisor, Gallatin Director of Communications Aaron Cedolia, admires her drive.

“Angie is so curious and driven, with a seemingly boundless energy that you cannot help but be drawn into her work and her passions,” Cedolia said.

Her passion, genuine zeal for life and the work that she does stems from her humbleness. Liao, as an NYU student, said she recognizes the privilege of the resources this university provides, though she admitted that she does not believe the institution protects all of its students equally.

“I’m cognizant of that,” Liao said. “I think that’s something that everyone who is doing work that gets really supported and well recognized should also think about. That’s something I think about too: that I could be doing more.”

Email Thomas Price at [email protected].