Paras Shah

2015 to 2016
Human Rights Watch
Service Interest:
Disability rights, transitional justice, international affairs
History; Political Science
Mission Viejo, California

Berkeley experience: Paras graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with honors in History and Political Science. Over four years he actively participated in student government as a Senior Associate Justice for the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC), worked as a Resident Assistant, and co-directed the Cal in the Capital program. Additionally, Paras served as External Vice President of Kappa Alpha Pi Pre-Law Fraternity. He has written for Berkeley’s newspaper, The Daily Californian, and conducted research with the UC Berkeley War Crimes Studies Center. For two years, Paras was the co-founder and President of a campus group, Embrace, which fundraised to provide incubators to premature infants in the developing world. Paras is a proud four-time recipient of the California Alumni Association's Leadership Award.

Other service experience: Paras is legally blind and his lived experiences have provided a deep appreciation for our nation’s legacy of civil rights legislation. This past summer Paras interned with the United States Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C. where he assisted in enforcement and implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In the past he was a political intern in the District Office of Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez. He enjoys volunteering, sports, and a good book. After graduation, Paras intends to obtain a graduate degree and engage with antidiscrimination policy, human rights advocacy, and international affairs.

Fellowship goal: Paras’ Fellowship goal is to dismantle the stigma that surrounds disability, both in the United States and around the globe, by working with laws such as the ADA and encouraging cross-cultural exchanges to explore the commonalties and intersectionalities of difference across society.

Post Fellowship plans: When the Fellowship concludes, Paras intends to continue a lifelong commitment for disability rights advocacy. He looks forward to graduate school and a career focused on serving others.

Commitment to Service: “To me public service is about empowering others, to walk in their shoes without assumption, but with respect and empathy for the unique and multiple identities and spaces we all hold. The goal is to observe, understand, and act; for I cannot be free until those around me enjoy the same rights and those rights are made real.” 


Paras Shah and UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks
Disability has always been my least favorite word in the English language. It’s the word that catches in my throat and forces my pen to pause mid-thought. I can easily apply this term of difference, of alienation, to others. As a human rights advocate, I routinely argue that someone has a right to...
A class reads from books. A disabled student is in a wheelchair.
The absence of color angered me. On the plastic desk, my book selfishly claimed all the space, stretching out with graceless inefficiency to lop off the edge and hang in the two-foot abyss above my lap. The immense white page depicted a fruit bowl of muted greys and indistinguishable blacks, an...