Inter­na­tional law pro­fessor Sonia Elise Rol­land recently joined North­eastern as part of the School of Law’s drive to expand its global law pro­gram. Rolland’s research aims to build a better set of legal guide­lines for trading goods and ser­vices with devel­oping coun­tries. Her goal is to help devel­oping nations gain a more promi­nent voice for their con­cerns at the World Trade Orga­ni­za­tion (WTO).

The cur­rent focus of my work is to sug­gest better rules that expand our toolbox for addressing uni­versal chal­lenges in devel­oping coun­tries,” says Rol­land. “The ques­tion is: Are the WTO rules pre­venting public poli­cies from working in these countries?”

In her dis­ser­ta­tion, titled “What legal frame­work for devel­op­ment at the World Trade Orga­ni­za­tion?” Rol­land ana­lyzes the rights of devel­oping coun­tries in the WTO.

She has also pub­lished arti­cles cov­ering other aspects of inter­na­tional law, including “The Pre­cau­tionary Prin­ciple: Devel­op­ment of an Inter­na­tional Stan­dard,” which appeared in the Michigan Journal of Inter­na­tional Law and has received sev­eral awards. In fact, the article’s appli­ca­tion of the pre­cau­tionary prin­ciple in inter­na­tional envi­ron­mental law was recently endorsed by the Inter­na­tional Law Com­mis­sion in a res­o­lu­tion by the United Nations Gen­eral Assembly.

It was her child­hood in Michigan that led her to pursue a career in inter­na­tional law. A native of France, Rol­land and her family moved to Michigan when she was in ele­men­tary school. Quickly, how­ever, her trep­i­da­tion about set­tling into a new country van­ished, and she cites the wel­coming atti­tude of her school class­mates as the reason. “I was treated as an equal by the Amer­ican stu­dents,” she recalls. “And that really meant some­thing to me.”

Her transat­lantic expe­ri­ence led her to realize the impact that inter­na­tional law has on every aspect of life, from sending a post­card over­seas to buying a cup of coffee. She now eagerly shares that enthu­siasm for inter­na­tional law with her students.

Rol­land, who earned her law degree from the Uni­ver­sity of Michigan Law School and is a doc­toral can­di­date at Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity in Eng­land, was drawn to North­eastern because of its vision for global edu­ca­tion and the School of Law’s com­mit­ment to expanding its inter­na­tional law pro­gram. Cur­rently, she teaches courses in inter­na­tional law, inter­na­tional trade law, and transna­tional litigation.