This interview was conducted over email with De’Ja Wood, a senior undergraduate 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.

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

De’Ja Wood (DW): As a Saint Louis native that bore witness to the Ferguson uprising in August 2014, the Human Rights Certificate peaked my interest, as I sought interdisciplinary studies that helped me make sense of the things happening around me and support the work in the ongoing fight for Black lives and human rights.

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

DW: The Human Rights Certificate offers a disciplinary understanding of history, theory, and practice, which provides students with the tools to continue to advocate for justice in their communities irrespective of their varied career goals.

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

DW: In this certificate program, I was able to participate in Duke Immerse Governance, Policy, and Society where I traveled to Atlanta, New Orleans, and South Africa and applied Human Rights Certificate teachings. I saw how prevalent human rights violations continue to be, as we consider basic rights to be privileges instead, and how marginalized people continue to fight for justice.

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

DW: The Human Rights Certificate provided me with the foundation and understanding of education as a fundamental human right that all children are entitled to, not a privilege. This fact acts as a driving force for me, as I hope to dedicate my career to ensuring all children, especially Black and Brown students, have equal access to education.

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

DW: Dr. Martin Smith in the Program in Education teaches Race, Power, and Identity, which has been one of the most meaningful classes for me. I took this course as a junior at Duke and learned a lot of Black history that I did not know about prior to the course. Dr. Smith challenged me to think about why these histories were not taught in school and why we must start normalizing them. As we seek to catalyze change our communities, these teachings are critical to the ongoing fight for justice and human rights.

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

DW: The Human Rights Certificate has helped me develop the language and memory to fight for human rights in all sectors of life. We can’t reserve conversations about justice for academic and professional settings. In order to fight for change, we must apply the teachings that the Human Rights Certificate offer in all aspects of our lives personal, academic, and professional. I think that this is important now more than ever for our generation, as we are in the midst of revolutions right now, like Black Lives Matter.