Maya Pandey is a senior at Duke University pursuing a major in Public Policy, a minor in Economics, and a certificate in Human Rights.
Why did you choose to pursue the human rights certificate?
I discovered the human rights certificate during my sophomore year at Duke through the gateway course, Introduction to Human Rights. Prior to coming to Duke, I had interned at a nonprofit called Lawyers Without Borders, where I conducted research on international human rights and rule of law issues. My desire to continue exploring these topics and engaging in similar work at Duke led me to the human rights certificate. It offered the perfect opportunity to explore the many human rights classes that Duke offers and to connect with professors and other students who shared my passions.
What was the most transformative experience you had while studying human rights at Duke?
The most transformative experience I have had while studying human rights at Duke has been through a class I am taking this semester, Mass Incarceration/Citizenship. Having been part of a research team working with the Durham County justice system throughout college, I was already familiar with the injustices in the justice system and passionate about criminal justice system reform. However, this class has shed light on the historical and systemic factors contributing to mass incarceration in the US, particularly its implications on the citizenship and rights of African Americans. The stories and individual experiences that I have learned and read about during this class have broadened my awareness of systemic injustices in the criminal justice system and the human rights implications of mass incarceration.
How has the human rights certificate helped you grow both academically and personally?
The human rights certificate has profoundly influenced my academic and personal growth throughout my time at Duke. It has introduced me to a diverse range of human rights courses, allowing me to appreciate the interconnected nature of human rights and other subjects such as gender and sexuality, race, policy, and international affairs. These courses have additionally allowed me to engage in extracurricular research on topics I am passionate about. Currently, I am a part of a research team investigating targeted infrastructure in the MENA region and the human rights and environmental impacts of incendiary weapons in the area. This experience has further solidified my understanding of the multifaceted nature of human rights issues and has allowed me to contribute meaningfully to ongoing research efforts.
How do you plan to integrate human rights into your work in the future?
I'm still uncertain about the specifics of my future career, but whether in a legal, policy, or advocacy role, I plan on integrating human rights in my future career by advocating for their protection and promotion in policy and in practice.
Do you have any advice for students considering the human rights certificate?
For students considering the human rights certificate, I recommend exploring the wide range of human rights classes offered at Duke. These classes are incredibly enlightening and some of the most interesting ones are not offered every semester, so I would enroll in anything that interests you, whether or not you decide to pursue the certificate itself. You might find that you've met the certificate requirements before you even realize it!