This interview was conducted over email with Isabel Gutenplan, a senior undergraduate student enrolled in the Human Rights Certificate Program, completing a major in Political Science, by Miranda Gershoni, a first-year undergraduate student working for the Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute.


Miranda Gershoni (MG): Why did you decide to pursue the human rights certificate?


Isabel Gutenplan (IG): I decided to pursue the human rights certificate because I took the introduction class my freshman year and I found all the topics we touched on so interesting — I found each week I just wanted to learn more about each topic, all of which could have been their own class. I found that even in that brief introduction into many different topics the way I saw and read the world was changing, and I really liked that.

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

IG: The classes I’ve taken in this certificate have really changed the way I think, including in the way I approach classes I take for my major and other requirements. It’s completely transcendent of a specific topic or area of study — it influences the way that you view all other academic, professional, or extracurricular assignments and endeavors.

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

IG: The multidisciplinary approach has definitely made me realize how all-encompassing human rights as an area of study is, and how there are so many different ways you can think and learn about it. As opposed to moving up through one department, you get so many different perspectives about how this can be studied.

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

IG: After college I’m looking to go to law school and eventually pursue a career in public interest law, a path that has absolutely been influenced by the classes I’ve taken in the human rights certificate and experiences I’ve had within the certificate.

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

IG: Last semester I took Family Rights and Human Rights with Professor Deutsch. I don’t think I have ever learned so much in a single class at Duke before, and on top of that it was so much of U.S. social history that I could not believe I didn’t know before. In addition, it made me completely re-examine my notions of the state and the motivations of those in power when making policy.