Building blocks for a policy and advocacy career

A 2013 graduate of the LLM in Rule of Law for Development program (PROLAW), David Saldivar is leading policy and advocacy efforts on closing civic space for Oxfam in the United States. After graduating from Stanford Law School, Saldivar spent 10 years in state and federal government working on open government and access to information in Texas and on sentencing, habeas corpus, and asylum appeals in California. Saldivar volunteered in Jordan with the Peace Corps, which led him to enroll in Loyola's PROLAW program to transition his career to international development.

What inspired you to pursue an LLM in PROLAW at Loyola?
After my wife and I completed our Peace Corps volunteering in 2012, I thought about the transition I wanted to make in my career as a lawyer and advocate.  International development, with a focus on the law and justice sector, seemed like a natural next step. PROLAW jumped out as an interesting opportunity to explore that path.

How did your experiences with Peace Corps lead you to transition your career to policy and advocacy?
I had always worked on or around policy development and implementation and wanted to continue after Peace Corps. The experience of living in another society and culture definitely drove my interest in further exploring how principles of rights, justice, good government, and participation are borne out by the different legal structures and systems around the world.


“PROLAW was a crash course in the history, structure, and lingo of the world of international development and humanitarian work, with a global cohort of classmates.” —David Saldivar


of PROLAW graduates are employed after graduation


countries are represented among PROLAW graduates

How have you put to use what you learned in the PROLAW program?
PROLAW was a crash course in the history, structure, and lingo of the world of international development and humanitarian work, with a global cohort of classmates.  We had ten plus nationalities, spanning Latin America, the Caribbean, across Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Asia, and North America.  All of us met in the middle of Rome--so cross-cultural collaboration and learning, which is so essential to effective development work, was embedded into the experience.  PROLAW helped me gain an orientation to and knowledge of the international aid system that let me hit the ground running.

What program experiences prepared you for your current position at Oxfam?
Our course in International Development Architecture hosted at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) gave a comprehensive, high-level overview of the key actors, processes, and debates in the international aid system, while drilling down into some of the most current and cutting edge legal and policy issues in development.  Professor McInerney's course on the history of the rule of law helped me understand the deep political and cultural roots of the rule of law as a concept and value and how it is reflected in the rights-based approach to international development. 

What do you see are the most pressing challenges to ending the injustices of poverty? 
The hardest thing to confront about entrenched poverty and inequality is that, in every case, there are those who benefit from the status quo and resist change.  Development and anti-poverty work is about building the alliances that enable the power of the many to challenge and overcome the entrenched power of the few, so that the benefits of the societies we all build through our work and participation in public life can be more equitably shared.  Fighting poverty is political and requires us to face the challenges all effective political action requires. Even in challenging times, however, we see unmistakable signs, especially among the younger generations, that a more fair and equal world is possible by working together.


Loyola’s program in Rule of Law for Development prepares you to become rule of law advisors, particularly in countries that are developing, in economic transition, or recovering from violent conflict. Through the program you’ll gain a fast, connected network from around the world and build practical skills in areas like conflict resolutions and peace building; constitution building and access to justice; economic development; and environmental justice. Apply Now to the LLM program (for lawyers) or the MJ program (for nonlegal professionals). Apply Now