2021 – Colleen Boraca
Colleen Boraca is a Clinical Associate Professor at Northern Illinois University College of Law and the Director of the NIU Health Advocacy Clinic (HAC), a medical-legal partnership located at Hesed House, the second largest homeless shelter in Illinois. Her colleagues describe her as a kind, trustworthy, and accomplished attorney who forms strong relationships with her clients, as she is genuinely invested in their lives. Before beginning her position at NIU, Colleen was a practicing attorney who advocated for the health of people in her community. She worked with the AIDS Legal Council (now Legal Council for Health Justice) for five years and spent another year at Loyola University Chicago’s Health Justice Project. Throughout her career, and especially during her time at HAC, Colleen’s work has been a reflection of her commitment to improving access to justice and to nurturing that commitment in new lawyers.
Working together with her students, Colleen has helped to secure over $1.2 million in Social Security benefits for their clients at HAC. When she sees a need that is not being met, she works to fill it, such as when she had two editorials published in the Chicago Sun-Times criticizing the State of Illinois for not passing a budget as it caused severe consequences for vulnerable community members. Early in the Covid-19 pandemic, Colleen and her clinical colleagues identified the need for a space for low-income clients who were experiencing legal issues exacerbated by the pandemic and created the Covid-19 Legal Response Clinic, also providing new opportunities for students. Colleen has contributed greatly to the School of Law with her academic prowess and knowledge from her experience in the fields of poverty law and clinical education, and she uniquely instills in her students the importance of empathy and self-care.
She is a valuable member of the NIU faculty, and her students recognize this, as evidenced by the consistent waitlists for her classes each semester. As one of her recommenders writes, “What sets Colleen apart is not only her commitment to being the best possible attorney and professor, but also her care and concern for the well-being of all law students and attorneys.”