Kathryn Thomas

Kathryn Thomas is a senior at Duke University pursuing a major in Public Policy, a minor in Political Science, and a certificate in Human Rights.

Why did you choose to pursue the human rights certificate? 

I decided to pursue the human rights certificate because I had experience engaging in human rights advocacy work throughout high school, and I wanted to continue exploring and learning about human rights while at Duke. I also believe that it is an important foundation for my public policy studies, as the perspectives and insights I have gained throughout my certificate courses have influenced me to think about policies in a different and more nuanced way. Now, more than ever, when I am writing a memo or considering a policy proposal, I have the toolkit to think about possible implications and potential externalities on human rights.

What was the most transformative experience you had while studying human rights at Duke? 

The most transformative experience I had while studying human rights at Duke has been something I have learned little by little throughout my time in the program, and that is the power of local organizing and political engagement in the face of human rights violations. It can often be easy to get overwhelmed by how vast problems related to human rights are at the international level, and I have really enjoyed working with the Human Rights Center to learn more about what community organizations are doing here in Durham and throughout North Carolina to help support the local community. In particular, during the gateway course, we had many guest speakers from local organizations, and I really appreciated the opportunity to learn from local activists about their work.

How has the human rights certificate helped you grow both academically and personally? 

The human rights certificate program has helped me develop a perspective to analyze policies, which has supported my learning as a public policy major. Personally, I believe that learning about the history of human rights and the times in which they have been violated has afforded me a better opportunity to understand the moment we are in today. 

How do you plan to integrate human rights into your work in the future? 

While there are still many unknowns surrounding my future career, I plan to integrate human rights into my professional life in many ways. I am very interested in working in the voting rights and democracy reform space, which directly connects with the civil and political rights we learn about in the certificate program. No matter where my career takes me, I know that I will apply the knowledge and perspectives gained throughout the certificate program to my work. 

Do you have any advice for students considering the human rights certificate?

Be curious! Explore the various course offerings and allow yourself the freedom to take a class on a topic you know nothing about. I have really enjoyed all my electives because they have been centered around historical periods that I knew very little about prior to the course. All offered me the opportunity to dive deeper than ever before into the history behind human rights across the globe and right here in North Carolina.