Randi Jennings is a senior at Duke University pursuing a major in Political Science, a minor in Linguistics, and a certificate in Human Rights.
Why did you choose to pursue the human rights certificate?
I chose to pursue the human rights certificate because I am interested in the legal field. I am currently interested in criminal law, but I believe that an education that prepares you to consider the implications of your actions beyond the strict letter of the law is important. In my human rights courses, I have found instruction in both the legal protections, treaty obligations, and the moral dimension of human rights.
What was the most transformative experience you had while studying human rights at Duke?
In Human Rights and Legal Redress, taught by Prof. Duara, I had the opportunity to write a paper that focused on my own personal interests in human rights and the law. Writing a paper about the impact of organized crime and attitudes about gender on women in Central America gave me the opportunity to focus on ways that these women are denied an opportunity for redress. This paper led to my current research interests in international development.
How has the human rights certificate helped you grow both academically and personally?
The human rights certificate has given me the chance to break out of “black and white” thinking in the realm of ethics. For example, I came to the human rights certificate with a belief that human rights advocates were strictly anti-prison or pro-abolition. Instead, the introductory class helped me to understand that there is a gray area. Prison conditions can absolutely be different than they are right now. But, at the same time, prisons and criminal justice are still an important piece of the rule of law. This has helped me to approach my interests in becoming a prosecutor through a new lens.
How do you plan to integrate human rights into your work in the future?
As an aspiring lawyer, I believe that human rights and law are necessarily intertwined. Even for attorneys that focus on mergers or tax law, it is important to understand that decisions do not happen in a vacuum. Given my own interests in criminal law, I believe that this education in human rights has helped me to remember my own role in systems and how I can work to make them more just.
Do you have any advice for students considering the human rights certificate?
Take classes outside of your main interests! Even though I am primarily interested in law, I have taken classes in education and business. These are important to understand how human rights issues permeate through all facets of life and to remember that you may have blind spots with respect to those who may be impacted by a decision.