This interview was conducted over email with David Marin Quiros, a student enrolled in the Human Rights Certificate Program, by Zac Johnson, a fourth-year undergraduate student working for the Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute. In addition to the Human Rights Certificate, David is earning a major in International Comparative Studies.

Zac Johnson (ZJ): Why did you decide to pursue the human rights certificate?

David Marin Quiros (DMQ): I decided to pursue the human rights certificate because I want to be able to unlock the skills and knowledge I need to be able to reshape the world we live in. Human rights, when I was younger, seemed like a flawless institution, with the sole intent of trying to improve the world for everyone. Taking human rights courses has allowed me to see how human rights has managed to improve the conditions for some, but to also be critical of some of the ways human rights is flawed. I want to live in the kind of society where no one has to face housing insecurity, inaccessible healthcare, or persecution, and I also want to find the most ethical way to get there. It is my desire to follow a career in refugee and asylum law, and the certificate offers the opportunity to reflect critically on the state of human rights in the world and how to improve it through my work.

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

DMQ: The certificate is unique because the program emphasizes interdisciplinary engagement with human rights. It demonstrates this because of how it exposes students to different faculty, amazing event speakers, and diverse community partners, showing the various creative ways human rights issues can be approached. The program also encourages students to research, write, and think critically about various topics we are passionate about. It has helped me begin to think about the ways I hope to approach my own human rights work.

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

DMQ: The multidisciplinary and experiential nature of the program has motivated me to engage with groups that connect me with the Durham community. By working with the organizations I have been a part of, I have been able to apply my human rights knowledge and better support the individuals facing structural inequality. The program has given me a deeper understanding of my research and academic interests by showing me what it looks like outside the classroom. It has helped me see the links of human rights as a theoretical framework and its practical application, as well as gaps that human rights have in applying to the lived experiences of those it theorizes about.

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

DMQ: After graduation, I plan to attend law school in order to do work with refugees and asylum seekers. I hope to apply the skills and knowledge I learned from the certificate to promote ethical engagement with vulnerable communities and to advocate for racial and social justice.

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

DMQ: One of the most impactful moments I’ve had was during a lecture in the Human Rights intro course. It challenged our assumption that human rights begins and ends with changing bad policy and having better engagement with governments and corporations. The lecture helped us see that, without shifting the social consciousness of society, rights that are won in law can’t be experienced by those the law intended to protect. It emphasized how understanding human rights requires us to look at our daily lives and the lives of others, and how we can work globally by taking local action. This idea has become one of the central pieces for my senior honors thesis.

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

DMQ: The certificate made me think about how I can work towards achieving human rights through my daily life and interactions. It has made me conscious of the personal responsibilities my community and I share to work towards improving the world for others.