This interview was conducted over email with Cecilia Cardelle, 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. Cecilia is earning a major in Philosophy with another certificate in Latino Studies of the Global South.

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

Cecilia Cardelle (CC): What drew me to the Human Rights Certificate was largely my desire to pursue a career in human rights law after I graduate. As a Cuban American woman, I’ve always been fascinated by the discussion surrounding human rights and the ways that their presence or absence in certain areas of the world can greatly impact one’s perception of a government, country, or political regime. I want to pursue a career in human right law because I’m passionate about bettering the lives of other by promoting stronger and more enforceable human rights standards through legislation. 

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

CC: I think what makes the Human Rights Certificate program unique from other programs at Duke is its versatility. The concept of human rights and discussions of its importance can be addressed in nearly every single discipline at Duke. Human rights issues include issues relevant to education, economics, health care, law, policy, and so many other fields of study. The study of human rights is relevant to any conversation or situation which involves human beings. The universal nature of human rights makes the certificate program one of, if not the most inclusive certificate program at Duke as it can be applied to nearly any interest one has as a student. 

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

CC: The multidisciplinary and experiential nature of the Duke Human Rights program has allowed me the freedom to pursue my niche interests within human rights as well as the ability to gain a certificate in the Latino Studies of the Global South Program. The crossover between these two disciplines made it possible for me to pursue certificates in both fields of study while gaining a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the crossover between them. The structure of the Human Rights Certificate program allowed me to pursue what I was passionate about within human rights while still providing me with a robust understanding and knowledge of the field in general. 

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

CC: After graduation I am planning to attend law school to pursue a career in human rights law. I plan to use the information and experiences I’ve gathered from my time in the certificate program to fuel the next three years of intensive reading and studying in my J.D. program. While addressing human rights abuses, working to implement policies that protect such rights, and advocating on behalf of the most vulnerable in society is what I am most passionate about doing, acquiring another set of skills through obtaining a J.D. will allow me to better pursue my passion in the world and effect a more tangible difference in our global community. 

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

CC: At the beginning of my second year at Duke, I signed up for Professor Duara’s course on Human Rights and Legal Redress simply because it seemed interesting to me at the time. Little did I know that this course, and professor Duara herself, would inspire me to not only become a part of the Human Right Certificate program at Duke, but also to think seriously about pursing human rights law as a career after college. To say that professor Duara and her incredibly informative class on Human Rights and Legal Redress was inspiring would be a gross understatement. The passion with which she pursues teaching and the knowledge she imparts to every student who takes her class is enough to get anyone interested in understanding and advocating for the protection of human rights. 

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

CC: I grew up with the idea that America was the best country in the world. My grandparents, being Cuban exiles, pushed the narrative that was fed to them during the Cold War when they were just teenagers: that the United States was a safe haven from communism and all of its terrible threats. I grew up viewing the human rights abuses in Cuba as abhorrent and believed that nothing of the sort could happen in the United States. However, after coming to Duke and becoming a part of the Human Rights Certificate program I learned that this was really not the case. The United States was, and has been for centuries, an enormous abuser of human right both domestically and internationally. Learning about the U.S.’ involvement in Latin American coups, their use of torture in the military, and nationwide expansion of mass incarceration, pushed my views of the United States into perspective. I now have a much more critical perception of the United States and, frankly, most countries throughout the world as I believe that nearly all nations can improve their respect for and legal obligation to human rights through legal ratification of the UN’s International Human Rights treaties.