Faculty Friday: Sana Onayeva

Every Friday, the International Studies Department will profile one of our amazing faculty members so you can get to know them better and see all the amazing work our faculty do!


Faculty Profile: Sana Onayeva

Sana Onayeva is an Adjunct Professor in the International Studies Department at the University of San Francisco. Professor Onayeva grew up in Almaty, Kazakhstan, where she received her law degree from the University of Kazakhstan. After completing her studies, Professor Onayeva came to the United States to pursue an LL.M degree in International and Comparative Law at George Washington University. Once she received her LL.M she started her international career as a Legal Consultant with the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) at the World Bank.


While with the World Bank, Professor Onayeva worked on various political risk insurance guarantees projects in Latin American, Africa, South-East Asia, Central Asia, Russian Federation, Ukraine, and Eastern Europe. One of these projects was working on the first cross-border mortgage-backed securitization in Kazakhstan. Her work on this project contributed to its being awarded a Deal of the Year award from the International Securitization Report. In addition, she represented a MIGA client in an investor-state dispute and participated in the settlement agreement to resolve a complex investment expropriation case between the government of the Kyrgyz Republic and a private investor. Additionally, Professor Onayeva prepared investment risk assessments for more than 100 countries and negotiated and drafted Contracts of Guarantees for MIGA projects.

After fours years as a Legal Consultant, Professor Onayeva decided to return to academia and received her SJD (Doctor of Juridical Science) degree from Washington College of Law, American University. Her thesis research was focused on the harmonization of cross-border insolvency proceedings worldwide and the necessity of the enactment of the UNICTRAL Model Law on Cross-Border Insolvency in domestic legal systems. In her dissertation she analyzed risks of cross-border investments and the lack of adequate national regulations relating to transnational bankruptcy. After examining the best practices of debt restructuring around the world and conducting a comparative analysis of the UNCITRAL Model Law’s application in various jurisdictions, Professor Onayeva concluded that the enactment of the UNCITRAL Model Law in domestic jurisdictions will secure stability in international cross-border transactions, and also would allow developing countries to offer foreign investors not only a beneficial entry but also a favorable exit.

During her SJD studies, Professor Onayeva was a Dean’s Fellow for the Center on International Commercial Arbitration (CICA) where she worked closely with an international practicing arbitrator, Horacio Grigera Naon. While working in the CICA, Professor Onayeva developed a strong passion for international arbitration. She was a coach for the American University arbitration team that participated in the 4th Frankfurt Investment Arbitration Moot Court Competition in March of 2011. The AU team was placed fifth among 27 teams in the competition. In addition she worked for two leading international arbitration firms in Frankfurt, Germany.

She also had a summer traineeship with K&L Gates where her main focus was investment arbitration and where she worked as a Foreign Attorney in the dispute resolution team of Feshfields Brookhaus Deringer, LLP. While at Freshfields, Professor Onayeva mostly worked on commercial and sports arbitration cases. In addition to her main responsibilities, she served as an Assistant to the Arbitrator of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland where she traveled for sport arbitration hearings.

In her spare time Professor Onayeva plays piano and her favorite composers are Chopin and Beethoven. She enjoys reading history books, Russian, French classical literature and poetry. Professor Onayeva enjoys making desserts and shares her culinary adventures with family and friends. Since she moved from Washington DC, she fell in love with San Francisco and thinks it is one of the most beautiful and vibrant places in the world. She is still discovering for herself the city’s great history, cozy hidden alleys, and amazing restaurants. She is also fond of Argentinean tango and traveling, she just wished she had more time for her free time!



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