This interview was conducted over email with Kathy Johnson, 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: How did you decide that you wanted to study human rights or pursue the human rights certificate?

Kathy Johnson: As a Sophomore I did the Duke Immerse: Rights and Identities in Latin America. This Duke Immerse focused heavily on the rights of immigrants in Latin America. I realized there was so much I had never considered about human rights. We did not only talk about specific rights related to migration, but also about rights of those living in Latin America and all over the world.

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

Kathy: Issues of human rights are complex. The inequity in the world can be imagined like a large tangled yarn. If you pull on one end to untangle it, you may have smoothed that end, but it is likely that somewhere else the knot will have become tighter. But if you are aware of how the strings are intertwined, you can figure out how to untangle them. This is what the interdisciplinary study of human rights accomplishes—giving you the tools to look at things from different angles, as opposed to studying it from only one side as you would in other disciplines.

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

Kathy: The summer after my sophomore year, I participated in Duke Engage in Tucson, AZ. There I worked with ScholarshipsA-Z which helps connect undocumented immigrants to educational opportunities. Through my work with ScholarshipsA-Z and other learning experiences such as water drops in the desert or visiting a deportation center, I witnessed some of the difficulties that immigrants often face. Seeing the ways in which undocumented immigrants are treated inhumanely reinforced my conviction in the need to protect everyone’s human rights.

Kyra: Do you have specific human rights interests?

Kathy: I am specifically interested in human rights related to immigration. Through my courses in Duke Immerse and my time spent in Tucson, AZ doing Duke Engage, I have thoroughly explored this topic.

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

Kathy: I plan on attending law school next year. I do not know where my legal career will take me, but I would love to work on issues related to human rights. The certificate has prepared me to constantly continue learning and never reduce issues to black and white answers.

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

Kathy: My Duke Engage and Duke Immerse experiences have both greatly impacted my time at Duke. They both taught me how to engage with difficult material and analyze complex concepts. As a culmination of my interest in immigration issues connected to human rights, I am currently writing a thesis about Mexican American life in San Antonio during the 1930s, a period of mass deportations. Whether or not these discoveries become salient in my career, they will certainly be useful in life to see past the political rhetoric and understand the position of immigrants worldwide.