From left to right: Jamal Connelly and Angela Sadat

Temple Law’s Institute for Law, Innovation & Technology (iLIT), in partnership with InterDigital Foundation, has announced the third cohort of Merritt Fellows. 

The William J. Merritt Student Fellowship was established in honor of Bill Merritt LAW ‘87 and provides financial support and mentorship for Temple Law students exploring topics at the critical intersection of technology, society, and law.  

Angela Sadat LAW ‘25 and Jamal Connelly LAW ‘25 have been named the recipients of the 2024 Fellowship.  

Connelly, a native of the Frankford neighborhood in Northeast Philadelphia, will focus his research on transit-oriented development in his hometown.  

“As a Philly native, I’ve seen so much growth and development these last few years, but most of the development has been centered around areas that already have great access to transit,” Connelly said. “With my research, I hope to ask important questions regarding growth and development and how technology and transit can revolutionize my community.” 

Citing zoning laws, parking requirements, NIMBY sentiments and a lack of funding, Connelly argues that transit-oriented development in Northeast Philly has been stifled.  

“Many people are married to their cars, the city does not give SEPTA nearly enough money, and many people do not want their neighborhoods to change,” Connelly said. “But this stagnation has led to a system where, in the Upper Northeast, you need a car to travel everywhere, and in the Lower Northeast, you’re cut off from half the city in regard to public transit.” 

For Angela Sadat, she said through this fellowship she plans to contribute to a holistic understanding of the role of digital equity in bridging the education achievement gap. By researching and examining both global strategies and district-level initiatives across the U.S., her aim is to inform policies and local projects that promote digital literacy so that it is not only accessible, but inclusive and equitable.  

She said her interest in educational equity began when she was a young girl hearing stories about her mother’s hometown of Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan, and her limited access to a formal education. This motivated her to pursue higher education and to get hands-on experience working toward educational equity.  

She joined Teach for America as an elementary school teacher in her hometown of Orlando, Florida, where she learned more about how racial and economic policies perpetuate educational disparities for marginalized students.  

“I witnessed how these challenges intensified as the COVID-19 pandemic hit during my second year of teaching,” Sadat said. “As the pandemic revealed the digital divide as a new barrier to education, my passion for educational equity grew.” 

“Angela and Jamal and the research they will pursue through this program represent everything that we want to achieve through iLIT. Their projects engage with real life challenges and possibilities within steps of our law school’s campus,” said iLIT Executive Director Laura Bingham. “Their work responds to community concerns over everyday quality of life in hugely consequential systems like public education and transportation. Our task, which we embrace with conviction and determination, is to support them and do all we can to see their efforts translate into positive change.” 

Both this year’s recipients are proud to hold the Merritt Fellowship and intend to further causes that will improve the well-being of their respective communities.  

“Being as though I am a part of the third cohort of recipients (of the Merritt Fellowship), I hope to learn from past fellows and want to contribute to a legacy much larger than myself,” Connelly said. “Hopefully, the research I complete will lead to progress regarding the Roosevelt Boulevard extension to the Broad Street Line.” 

“It is both an honor and humbling experience to be awarded with a fellowship to research and expand on my passion for something that led me to apply to law school in the first place. My passion for education equity stems from my Afghan upbringing. From as early as the age of five, my mother stressed the importance of education – encouraging me to ‘always chase after [my] education,’” Sadat said. “Constant civil unrest and intermittent war precluded [my mother’s] access to a formal education, a fate shared by many children in Afghanistan. With this fellowship, I will continue working toward educational equity, so that far more children across the globe can chase the dream of education that my mother always instilled in me.” 

About the Merritt Fellowship

Bill Merritt LAW ‘87 served as President and Chief Executive Officer of InterDigital, an industry-leading research, innovation, and licensing company, from 2005 until his retirement in 2021. Under his leadership, InterDigital created solutions for many of the industry’s most critical and complex technical challenges and grew to include licenses and strategic relationships with many of the world’s leading technology companies. Merritt is a member of Temple Law’s Board of Visitors and now serves as an inaugural member of the iLIT Advisory Board.