This interview was conducted over email with Graysen Airth, 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, Graysen is earning majors in International Comparative Studies and French.

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

Graysen Airth (GA): In the Spring of my freshman year, I enrolled in Professor Kirk’s course “Introduction to Human Rights.” Through this course, I was introduced to the vastly complex nature of human rights, as well as the historical context through which social movements occurred globally. This course provided me with a foundational framework for understanding many things beyond human rights socio-politically, and it very quickly convinced me that – while I still didn’t know either my major or minor – I would certainly pursue the certificate.

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

GA: I believe that the human rights certificate is unique from other certificate programs at Duke because it can be seamlessly integrated with – and can inform – many, if not most, major and minor programs at Duke. Human rights are everywhere, and Duke’s multidisciplinary certificate program certainly recognizes that.

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

GA: The multidisciplinary, experiential nature of Duke’s human rights programs has allowed me to both supplement my majors and to explore new fields of study. The courses that I have completed for the certificate have come from a number of different departments, including Public Policy, Anthropology, Romance Studies, African and African American Studies and Gender and Feminist Studies.

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

GA: I hope to apply my learned knowledges and experiences after graduation through both my professional aspirations and continued education. I plan to pursue a career in human rights and sustainability in the corporate sector and to pursue a graduate degree in international relations or public policy with a similar focus.

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

GA: I am reminded of a lecture during Robin Kirk’s “Introduction to Human Rights” class my freshman year, during which we were preparing for our final op-eds for the course. During our discussion that class, I came to the realization that – for the first time at Duke – I felt confident engaging in meaningful debate with my peers. I believe that the structure of Duke’s human rights classes invite debate and conversation in a way that is otherwise hard to find at Duke, which I have consistently appreciated throughout my time at the university.

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

GA: The program has encouraged me to think more critically about history, particularly how it is written and retold, as well as the continued injustices that people face in the world today.