Skip to content
Reading time: 3 minutes

Outstanding University of Hawaiʻi law student Katherine “Kaki” Vessels has been chosen as one of National Jurist prelaw magazine’ 25 Students of the Year recipients. Vessels was selected from more than 200 ABA-accredited law schools across the nation.

The Student of the Year honor is a new feature in the spring issue of National Jurist prelaw magazine that highlights exceptionally talented, dedicated and community-minded law students.

Vessels at the Temple of Ta Prohm in Angkor, Cambodia

A third-year law student at the William S. Richardson School of Law, Vessels has been involved in a remarkable range of public service and educational activities, from assisting at war crimes tribunals in Asia and Africa, to preparing patent applications for recent law graduates, to helping to develop security improvements for port operations in the Philippines.

Said School of Law Dean Avi Soifer, “The list of all that Kaki has done seems incredible; but that is only until you meet her. Kaki seems to be an irresistible force, and she does all this and more without ever losing her humanity and her commitment to doing everything well.”

Vessels credits many of her accomplishments to the array of opportunities offered by UH law school, and the vast amount of support from faculty and staff.

“I’ve had an amazing number of practical experiences that not a lot of other law schools even offer,” said Vessels. “Getting to travel to these other countries you learn about law in other cultures, but also how to interact with lawyers from other cultures, and how to do research in other countries. And you learn so much about how you deal with stressful events, and who you are as a person and a lawyer.”

Katherine “Kaki” Vessels, middle, with mother, left, and brother.

More on Katherine “Kaki” Vessels

A veteran of the war in Afghanistan, Vessels will complete her law studies at UH in May and hopes to get a masters in law degree at Ateneo Law School in the Philippines next year.

As an extraordinary student leader, Vessels has a long list of credits that  include: joining the research team of Professors David Cohen and Diane Desierto and monitoring war crimes tribunals in Cambodia and Senegal; developing legal protections for victims of human trafficking in Southeast Asia; assisting in the assessment of the law school’s strategic plan as part of its reaccreditation process and working with Professor Eric Yamamoto in building the framework for reparations claims for victims of a 1948 massacre of South Korean citizens.

Vessels is a graduate with a bachelors degree in chemistry from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. She first came to Hawaiʻi in 2008 when she was stationed at Schofield Barracks in the U.S. Army and her husband Brad was stationed at Fort Shafter with the 94th Air and Missile Defense Command.

In 2010 she served in Afghanistan for a year where she was a movement control team leader responsible for overseeing all the trucks, planes and helicopters bringing supplies to her base. Sometimes her job entailed dealing with hundreds of trucks and drivers from an array of nations and determining daily if any posed a danger.

She returned to Hawaiʻi in 2011, and entered Richardson law school in 2013, a year after leaving the Army in 2012. She and her husband also run a yacht brokerage business and live on a 58-foot trawler in Ko ʻOlina.

Vessels in Afghanistan
Back To Top