This interview was conducted over email with Daniel Raftis, 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. Daniel is earning a major in Biology with a minor in Chemistry.

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

Daniel Raftis (DR): One reason I decided to pursue the Human Rights Certificate was to learn more about the stories, history, and politics of global refugees in order to better understand the community in which I was serving as a part of the Kenan Refugee Project. My second motivation to take the certificate was because I felt it would provide me with a unique lens into the world of health care that I would not have received if I choose to only stay within the traditional STEM courses as a pre-med student.

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

DR: This certificate allowed me to take a wide variety of different courses and explore many of my intellectual curiosities. Not only was I able to take a class on International Human Rights Law but also within the certificate’s electives I took classes on the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement. These classes have been some of my favorite at Duke and helped me to develop a more well-rounded understanding of the applications of human rights.

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

DR: Human rights is applicable to all lines of work and is something that I now feel confident enough to openly discuss and even debate in conversation. Prior to my experience at Duke I had no concept of what human rights were or how to advocate for them. Now when I approach a world problem I see the crucial role which human rights can play. I plan to continue to educate myself on the ever expanding field of human rights wherever my future takes me.

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

DR: The most impactful thing for me was the relationships I created with my professors. Each professor in their own unique way provided me with a platform to learn and openly engage with the material. I always felt the professors were there to help me grow as a person, never to test my ability to just memorize information like so many other classes at Duke.

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

DR: The information and lessons I learned within the certificate have created a new passion in me as I pursue a life of serving others through medicine. I believe that the certificate has helped me create a more holistic outlook towards health care and other essential rights.