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Marilu Gresens ’10 Supports Human Rights Work in Gaborone, Botswana


One of the biggest decisions for most out-of-state students attending the College of Law is whether to take the bar exam in Ohio or back home. Marilu Gresens ’10, who grew up in a small town in upstate New York, faced that same question and ultimately opted to take the New York State bar exam.

But Gresens is not working in her home state – in fact, nowhere even near New York.

Instead, she is working as an associate attorney at Dow and Associates, a human rights-focused law firm in Gaborone, Botswana. “Generally, I assist with the firm’s cases, and also get to work on test litigation cases having to do with women’s rights and human rights generally,” Gresens said. “Most recently, we’ve taken a case that we hope will advance children’s and mother’s rights in Botswana in regards to child support.”

Another aspect of Gresens’ job is managing the partnership between Dow and the College of Law, which sends interns to the firm each summer – and this is how she got connected with Judge Unity Dow in the first place.

Gresens’ path to Gaborone began in the small town of Poestenkill, N.Y., where she and her younger sister – and many pets – were raised. She has fond memories of being on the campaign trail with her late grandmother, Lois Fisher, who became the town’s first female supervisor. “I think it was from her that I gained a fiery sprit, and learned that if you don’t like what’s happening in the world, then don’t sit around – go out and try to change it,” Gresens said.

Gresens graduated from SUNY College at Plattsburgh in 2007, with degrees in political science and women’s studies. She then was off to law school – something Gresens had anticipated since she was eight years old. “I’ve always been a driven and passionate individual, with a strict sense of justice,” she said. “Most people who knew me when I was younger are not surprised that I grew up to become a lawyer.”

Gresens was set on attending George Washington, but the decision to attend the College of Law became a no-brainer when she visited the campus. Two main attractions for Gresens, a “huge animal lover” and vegetarian, were the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights and the Domestic Violence and Civil Protection Order Clinic.

But it was even before attending UC Law and getting involved with those programs that Gresens knew she wanted to work in Africa. In fact, she recalls speaking with Al Watson, Senior Assistant Dean and Director of Admissions and Financial Aid, about the possibility of working in Africa after her 1L year. Indeed, Gresens went to Africa and clerked for (then) Judge Dow, the first female judge on the High Court of Botswana, through the Urban Morgan Institute.

She worked at a small law firm her second summer, Sirkin, Pinales & Schwartz, and later clerked for Gerhardstein & Branch. Gresens completed an externship with Chief Judge Susan Dlott, United States District Court for then Southern District of Ohio during her 3L year.

Meanwhile, Judge Dow stepped down from the bench in Botswana and opened her firm in Gaborone. Gresens, who was graduating from the College of Law around that same time, maintained contact with Judge Dow. “I made it no secret that I wanted to join the firm, and she eventually extended me an offer,” she said. Gresens is now firmly situated at Dow and Associates and is enjoying her job. “I see it as an exciting opportunity to advance and promote the enforcement of human rights in a country whose political and judicial leaders are receptive to progressive development,” she said.

The New York native, who “fell in love with Botswana” when she first came in 2008, said she is hoping that her current job will “lead to a career in international human rights law.” But Gresens presently has no intentions on going anywhere. “I love Botswana and I have no plans to leave anytime soon – so I hope to be doing this for some time,” she said.

While Gresens is far removed from the corner of Clifton Avenue and Calhoun Street, she spoke fondly of her time at the College of Law, as well as those who supported her and inspired her along the way – specifically, Professors Margaret Drew and Bert Lockwood.

When asked about what she misses the most about Cincinnati, friends, Graeter’s ice cream and “weekend movies at the Esquire,” came to mind. Gresens now spends many of her weekends taking the opportunity to travel, which recently included a trip to Botswana’s well-known Okavango Delta, the world’s largest inland delta.

“It was beautiful,” she said. “We saw some amazing wildlife, including some giraffe and zebras grazing on the side of the road.”

Clearly, a degree from the College of Law can take you places.

by Jordan Cohen '13