Two Ivan Allen Students Receive Inaugural Van Aacken Awards

Zoe Elledge and Samuel Ellis

Posted November 29, 2021

Two Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts students have been awarded the inaugural Van Aacken Awards to help offset the costs of applying to law school. Samuel Ellis, a fourth-year International Affairs major from Peachtree City, and Zoe Elledge, a fourth-year Literature, Media, and Communication (LMC) major from Dunwoody, were awarded $500 each. The two students were chosen for their promise and aptitude for success in law school and the legal profession.

The award is managed by the Law, Science, and Technology (LST) program in the School of Public Policy. It is financed by the Troy Van Aacken Law Endowment Fund.

Elledge has been interested in law school since she participated in policy debate in high school. She plans to pursue public interest law, a broad field that seeks to help the public at large, and one she hopes will enable her give back to the Atlanta community. While she has already been accepted and committed to the University of Georgia School of Law, she said the award will help retroactively alleviate some of the financial strain associated with the application process.

“Receiving this award has been really validating for me, and it’s convinced me that I’m on the right path with applying to law school,” Elledge said. “I’m so glad to see that the pre-law program at Georgia Tech is growing and that there are more and more opportunities for pre-law students every year.”

Ellis got interested in law school through his high school debate team. After becoming a lawyer, he wants to work as a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, where he interned in 2020. He hopes to combine this passion for civic engagement and supporting his community with the real-world skills he learned at Georgia Tech.

“Our American founding documents have so many incredible, important protections, and it’s my duty to ensure that all Americans have equitable access to those rights,” he said.

Susan Van Aacken, MS Public Policy 1999, established the endowment in memory of her late husband, Troy Van Aacken, a Georgia Tech electrical engineering graduate and former Atlanta attorney. The Fund is designed to support pre-law students of all majors in the Law, Science, and Technology (or pre-law) program, regardless of whether or not they are LST minors.

“This gift is out of a sense of gratitude to Georgia Tech and the GT legal alumni network that meant so much to us personally and professionally over the course of my husband’s legal career,” said Van Aacken. “We were looking for a way to stay involved with the Georgia Tech School of Public Policy and build a home in the LST program, not only for students, but also the growing GT legal alumni community. Helping pave the way for graduating students to apply to law school felt like a great way to make a real difference.”

Elledge and Ellis credited their successful law school applications to the education they received in the Ivan Allen College.

“Georgia Tech, and more specifically the LMC program, prepared me for law school by teaching me how to think about texts analytically, craft airtight arguments, and participate in Socratic-style classroom discussions,” Elledge said.

Ellis added: “Our unique intersection of technology and social justice prepares us to push boundaries in the legal field. I’m honored to have received this award and excited for the new generation of engaged, community-oriented Tech students it will help build.”

Contact For More Information

Grace Wyner

Communications Officer

School of Public Policy | Sam Nunn School of International Affairs