This interview was conducted over email with Allayne Thomas, a student enrolled in the Human Rights Certificate Program, by Zac Johnson, a third-year undergraduate student working for the Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute. Allayne is earning a major in International Comparative Studies and a minor in Korean.

Zac Johnson (ZJ): Why did you decide to pursue the Human Rights Certificate?

Allayne Thomas (AT): I came to Duke interested in learning more about human rights and the certificate was the perfect opportunity to deepen my knowledge. I took an elective class my first semester and it really opened my eyes to both the benefits and the complicated historical transformations that human rights has undergone throughout the years. I hope to pusue a career in international human rights law and the certificate provides me with the space to critically reflect on the state of human rights in the world and how to improve it.

ZJ: What makes this certificate unique from other programs at Duke?

AT: This certificate is unique because it’s the only one that will really provide a comprehensive understanding on of some of the most important social moments for change in the last few decades and give a template to how to bring about the change you wish to see in the world. The pathway to reach this understanding is surprisingly flexible and that is what really sets this certificate apart from others. In particular, there are Duke Immerse programs or other experiential opportunities that give you both a deepened practical understanding of human rights while obtaining academic credit at the same time.

ZJ: How has the multidisciplinary, experiential nature of the program affected your learning while in the certificate?

AT: It has truly made me bridge the gap between human rights as a theoretical framework and in pratical application. Viewing human rights from multiple perspectives and disciplines has opened my understanding of the various routes, from campaigning, organizing, to lawsuits, to achieve progress and on what issues are out there that need to be tackeled.

ZJ:How do you plan to use the information and experiences you’re gaining from the certificate after you graduate?

AT: I plan on working in a migrant-related non-profit for a year before going on to law school to pursue international human rights law. During my time at Duke I was fortunate to have an internship working on migrant integration in a government office and that experience really made me more interested in influencing policy for asylum-seekers, refugees, and migrants.

ZJ: What has been the most impactful moment (lecture, activity, reading, professor, etc) you’ve gained from the program?

AT: One of the most impactful moments was a lecture in my Human Rights intro course that challenged the assumption that human rights have to be achieved through the courts or policy. It emphasized the multiple ways that human rights can be achieved in our daily lives and placed the focus on overall postiive societal change. Without shifting the mindset of society, the effect of rights that are won and protected under law won’t be translated into daily practice. Together, each person has a role to play, from organizing, teaching, or otherwise that can fit into the framework of human rights progress.

ZJ: How has the Human Rights Certificate shaped your life outside of academic and professional settings?

AT: Following off of question five, it’s really enlightened me to the personal responsibility we all share, no matter our academic discipline or professional career, to work towards a better world together.