This interview was conducted over email with Elizabeth Barahona, a senior undergraduate student enrolled in the Human Rights Certificate Program, by Kyra Josephson, senior undergraduate student, majoring in History and working for the Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute.

Kyra Josephson (KJ): How did you decide that you wanted to study human rights or pursue the human rights certificate?

Elizabeth Barahona (EB): Human rights seemed to me like common sense but learning more about it and the difficulties there were to implement human rights was disheartening. I have a responsibility to my community members to do all I can to make sure human rights are respected. Therefore, this certificate’s lessons, research and mentorship are training me to achieve my goals.

KJ: In what ways has the interdisciplinary study of human rights been unique or different from other academic experiences?

EB: I have explored history, sociology, anthropology, religion and political science in my courses. Learning different disciplines has been inspiring for me to know that there are many avenues to establish and protect communities. The holistic scope of the certificate has allowed me to be as creative or as disciplined as I want.

KJ: How have you learned about human rights outside of your courses or engaged with the practice of human rights?

EB: After my first year at Duke, I went to the U.S.-Mexican border in Tucson Arizona and served at the Coalition for Human Rights. This hands on experience exposed me to hundreds of humanitarian issues and human rights abuses. This was the moment that solidified my commitment to studying human rights and taking on a career where I feel I will be able to study, expose and demand human rights.

KJ: Do you have specific human rights interests?

EB: I study migration, transnationalism and marginalized communities. My parent’s hardships as migrants from Latin America were influential in my activities and intellectual curiosities. Our family’s struggle guided me to be an advocate for them and my undocumented community here in Duke and in Orlando (my hometown.)

KJ: Are you interested in pursuing a career in human rights after graduation? If so, how has the certificate prepared you?

EB: I’m going to become a history professor at a university. I’ll teach Latinx history, U.S. history and Latin American history. Through my research and reach as an academic I will be able to make my research accessible and beneficial to the very communities I study. The certificate has prepared me by giving me examples of those scholars. My mentors Sarah Deutsch, Robin Kirk and Liliana Paredes are academics that go beyond the ivory tower to advocate for the communities they study. Their lives, families and research are engulfed in their passion for human rights.

KJ: Is there an event, course, or project related to human rights that has shaped your time at Duke or future plans?

EB: For the past two years I have been writing my thesis, the history of Latinx students at Duke University. This experience has encouraged me to improve my writing and research skills and to establish a career as a public intellectual, scholar-activist.