Prya Murad, a 30-year-old immigrant who built her law career defending clients who couldn’t afford a lawyer, has been selected to deliver Transylvania University’s commencement address on May 23.
The 2011 Transylvania graduate will offer her wisdom to members of the Class of 2020 during the ceremony on the lawn of historic Old Morrison as they prepare to make their own mark on the world.
Murad was having an impact even as an undergraduate. The biology and philosophy double major was the first Transylvania student to attend the annual Summer Institute offered by Yale University’s Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics. Because of the impression she made, the program now reserves a spot for a Transylvania student each year.
Also, as a senior Murad helped raise funds to start a free science literacy summer camp at The Carnegie Center for Literacy & Learning.
As she is dedicated to helping others, Murad credits Transylvania’s faculty with supporting her along her own path. “The thing that sets Transy apart is the faculty and the way in which the faculty invest in the students,” she said, adding that they served as advocates for her in the classroom and even after she graduated.
Having this kind of assistance — from not only professors but also lifelong friends she made at Transylvania — fosters resilience, the theme of this academic school year. “The way we cultivate the confidence to be resilient is to know that you have a place to fall — that you’re not falling into some abyss, that you have a support system,” she said.
Murad also noted she is proud of being asked to give this year’s commencement speech. “I love my alma mater and feel close to many of my professors who have provided support to me for years and years, which is how I got to where I am at a young age.”
After Transylvania, the Pakistani native earned her Master of Science in biomedicine, bioscience and society from the London School of Economics and a J.D. at Loyola University Chicago.
As a public defender, Murad practiced in West Palm Beach, Florida, and San Francisco, representing hundreds of clients. In just a little over four years of practice, she has conducted nearly 40 jury trials and 20 non-jury trials. She now is a criminal defense attorney for the Law Offices of Damon M. Cheronis in Chicago. The boutique criminal defense firm represents both private and appointed clients, those who are unable to afford an attorney.
Murad also is making a name for herself outside the courtroom. For instance, her article “Give Juveniles Their Due” was published by the Marshall Project, and she recently was featured in a NowThis! video on mandatory minimum sentencing. Additionally, Murad teaches trial advocacy at Loyola as a coach for the prestigious Philip H. Corboy Fellowship mock trial team, which competes nationally. And in March she will be an instructor at the National Institute for Trial Advocacy’s Building Trial Skills program.
“My career is about the people I represent,” Murad said. “I stand as a wall between the government and the individual — and it is my job, first and foremost, to give people a voice, protect them from government overreach and uphold the values of our Constitution.”