This interview was conducted over email with Julia Kaufman, a senior undergraduate student enrolled in the Human Rights Certificate Program, by Kyra Josephson, senior undergraduate student, majoring in History and working for the Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute.

Kyra Josephson (KJ): How did you decide that you wanted to study human rights or pursue the human rights certificate?

Julia Kaufman (JK): I was drawn to studying human rights because of how self-evident and apparent they seemed to me. The idea of implicit rights we all have as humans made sense. Learning how the language and theory of human rights came to be, and how human rights are violated, defended and protected, has complicated my initial understanding in many ways, but reaffirmed it as well. I think what makes the study of human rights so important is that it is intuitive globally, yet requires dynamic dialogue, effort and activism.

KJ: In what ways has the interdisciplinary study of human rights been unique or different from other academic experiences?

JK: My study of human rights has been a unique academic experience in that my human rights education has extended beyond ideas and theories to studying the people who actually do human rights work and who need human rights protection. This learning has often happened through storytelling, by both human rights practitioners and those who have had their human rights violated, who use their stories to develop deeper connections between listeners and the relevant human rights issue.

KJ: How have you learned about human rights outside of your courses or engaged with the practice of human rights?

JK: Outside of my courses, I have learned about human rights by attending events and lectures on campus, most of which have been at the Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute. I have learned about people all over the world who are challenging systems of oppression and inequality, such as David Tolbert, who is the current president of the International Center for Transitional Justice, and Juan Mendez, who is the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and spoke on the emergence of a universal right to truth. I have also learned about human rights by being involved with the Student Advisory Board (SAB) to the Duke Human Rights Center. The SAB has connected me to students and faculty who have specific human rights interests and experiences. Additionally, my internship at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in the Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights & Law Program gave me a hands-on understanding of how human rights are approached by a large, international NGO and exposed me to a variety of human rights topics I had been previously unfamiliar with, including gender-based violence in older populations and the social responsibilities of scientists. Most of my human rights education has happened outside of the classroom, facilitated by my involvement with the certificate.

KJ: Do you have specific human rights interests?

JK: Yes, I am interested in the right to health. As a global health major, I am interested in the social determinants of health as part of a comprehensive approach to health and human rights, and in the global governance necessary to implement the right to health into policies and practices.

KJ: Are you interested in pursuing a career in human rights after graduation? If so, how has the certificate prepared you?

JK: I am interested in pursuing a legal career in public law or international human rights law. I am not sure what my career as a lawyer will look like, but the certificate has prepared me by exposing me to a wide range of human rights topics and potential careers. It has also shown me that there is not one career pathway to follow in human rights. The human rights certificate has helped to shape my personal and professional values, showing me the importance of relationship-building in human rights work. The work cannot get done without knowing, listening to, and understanding other people.