This interview was conducted over email with Eritrea Temesghen, 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. Eritrea is earning an interdepartmental major between Sociology and Public Policy with a minor in Spanish.

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

Eritrea Temesghen (ET): I decided to pursue the Human Rights Certificate after taking a class called Human Rights & Legal Redress during my first semester at Duke. The course content sparked my interest in better understanding the history of human rights as it related to international geopolitics and its potential to help advance the fight for equity in diverse global contexts. I also wanted to be more aware and sensitive to the power dynamics linked to human rights as a “Western ideology” and how anti-imperialist social movements, among others, can reclaim (and are reclaiming) it as an avenue for liberation and institutional transformation.

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

ET: A unique aspect of the certificate that drew me in was the intentionality behind making it an interdisciplinary and globally-minded program. I think that has really enriched my course experiences through the certificate and helped me bring those insights into classes that I’ve taken in other disciplines, both at Duke and while studying abroad.

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

ET: I place a lot of value on recognizing the intersectionality of people’s identities and experiences and how that relates to larger social injustices that I want to participate in transforming. The multidisciplinary focus of the certificate has allowed me to dive deeper into those intersections from an academic perspective and learn from the wisdom of great thinkers, writers, and activists that have been doing this work for generations.

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

ET: While I haven’t charted out my life plans for post-graduation just yet, I know that I want to utilize all that I’ve gained from the certificate and other learning spaces I’ve been in to be as impactful an organizer and community member as I can be. This program has not only provided me with valuable information for whatever job I end up having in the future; it has also taught me how to be a more critical thinker and active participant in the world around me.

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

ET: I think Human Rights & Legal Redress remains one of the most impactful academic learning experiences I’ve had at Duke. Especially since it was my first semester, I had a steep learning curve ahead of me. There were a lot of things that surprised me throughout the course of the semester that forced me to reconsider a lot of what I thought I knew. I still think of that class even three years later, and it was a great motivator behind my decision to pursue the Human Rights Certificate.

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

ET: The certificate has definitely had a personal and powerful impact on me. Outside of the classroom, the program has provided many opportunities for my personal and intellectual growth through talks with leading scholars and activists, rich historical archives, and annual events like Global Ideas, Local Impact. I’ve learned so much from fellow students in the certificate that have inspired me through their passion, wisdom, and unique insights. I know that everything I’ve learned during my three years in the program will remain with me for a very long time.