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Technology lawyer and human rights advocate

Posted 9:30 a.m. Friday, May 31, 2024

Amanda McAllister Novak, '12, is the recipient of the 2024 Rada Distinguished Alumni Award.

Amanda McAllister Novak, ’12, to receive Rada Distinguished Alumni Award 

An advocate for human rights.  

An attorney specializing in data privacy, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity.   

A bird-lover who nurses falcons, hawks and owls back to health.  

Amanda McAllister Novak, ’12, is all of those. And now, she can add a new title to her résumé: recipient of the UWL Rada Distinguished Alumni Award, recognizing outstanding alumni of the past 20 years who have gone on to achieve professional distinction and make a difference through humanitarian activities.   

“She is known by all with whom she has worked as an outstanding data privacy and security professional, truly at the top of her profession — making exceptional contributions to our legal profession every day,” says Sean B. Hoar of Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete in Minneapolis, where Novak works as a senior counsel on cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and data security. “In addition to the critical role she fills on our team, Amanda also distinguished herself with exceptional contributions to her community as an advocate for human rights.”  

In her role, Novak assists clients in responding to data security incidents, including ransomware attacks, and in navigating the complex and ever-evolving landscape of privacy law, artificial intelligence and emerging technologies.    

Novak’s dedication to learning and sharing knowledge is also reflected in her numerous presentations and academic publications on topics including artificial intelligence, autonomous weapons systems, cyber warfare, international criminal law, transitional justice, data privacy and human rights. 

She holds a juris doctorate degree from the University of Minnesota Law School, with a specialization in international law and human rights. While attending law school, she served as a note editor for the Minnesota Law Review, a legal writing student instructor and student director of the Human Rights Litigation & International Advocacy clinic. 

An English major during her time at UWL, Novak has used her strong writing, analysis and communication skills to advise on complex legal issues at the intersection of law, policy, and technology, and to build a positive rapport with her clients and community. 

Natalie Eschenbaum, who taught in the UWL English Department when Novak was a student, remains impressed by her former pupil more than a decade later.   

“She is, without a doubt, the brightest undergraduate I have encountered in my 20 years of teaching,” says Eschenbaum, dean of the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington, Tacoma. “Amanda constantly pushed herself to think better and to write better. That persistence, combined with her natural brilliance in analytical thinking and writing, made her the ideal candidate for a professional path in law.”  

At UWL, Novak also used her skills and knowledge to help others. She worked as a tutor in the Writing Center and a teaching assistant in the English Department — assisting students in preparing essays, conducting grammar lessons for international students and supporting faculty teaching introductory English courses. She also worked as a summer camp counselor in Tokyo, teaching English to elementary, middle and high school Japanese students. 

It should come as no surprise, then, that Novak has continued to give her time and talents to meaningful causes.  

With a passion for human rights advocacy, she has provided pro bono legal assistance through several nonprofit organizations, including the Minneapolis-based Advocates for Human Rights, where she represented asylum-seekers and refugees in immigration proceedings. 

She is a board member of World Without Genocide at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in Saint Paul, a group dedicated to preventing genocide and protecting innocent people around the world.   

And she has served as an instructor for the American Red Cross, teaching legal workshops on the laws of armed conflict, including a workshop at UWL.  

Novak has been involved in international advocacy, armed conflict research and reporting projects to advance human rights, including conflict-related research at the Transitional Justice Institute in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and reporting on the 9/11 commissions from Guantanamo Bay. 

Additionally, she serves on the board of advisors and as a flight crew member for the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota, rehabilitating owls, falcons and hawks so they can be released into the wild.  

“Amanda is an inspiration for all of us, and especially for young people — and most notably for young women,” says Ellen Kennedy, founder and executive director of World Without Genocide. “Everything she undertakes is done with the utmost professionalism and with a genuine warmth and affection for those around her.” 

Those who work closely with Novak say she stands out both for her professional acumen and for her personal dedication to making the world a better place. Those are qualities she developed in part at UWL, and that she has only strengthened since.  

"My experience at UWL, and in particular the English Department, has been instrumental in my personal and intellectual growth and provided the foundation for me to pursue a rewarding and exciting career path,” Novak says. “I cherish my time and the connections I made at UWL, and I am deeply honored to receive the Rada Distinguished Alumni Award." 

Amanda McAllister Novak, ’12

  • Attorney at Constangy, Brooks, Smith and Prophete
  • Avid volunteer for the Red Cross, Advocates for Human Rights, Native American Service Project and many more.

About Distinguished Alumni Awards

The UWL Alumni & Friends Foundation is awarding graduates from the ’80s through 2015 its top alumni awards for 2024. They’re being honored for distinguished service and successful careers. 

The distinguished alumni will return to campus Friday and Saturday, Sept. 20 and 21, to speak with students, take part in a panel discussion and be formally recognized during a ceremony and brunch.

This year's recipients are:

  • Graff Distinguished Alumni Award — Ronald Sentwali Bakari, '82 & ‘90
  • Altman Teacher Education Alumni Award — Jeanne Halderson, '92 & '97
  • Parker Distinguished Multicultural Alumni Award — Vickie Sanchez, '07
  • Rada Distinguished Alumni Award — Amanda McAllister Novak, '12
  • Morgan Improving the Lives of Others Alumni Award — Shaundel Spivey, '12 & '15


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