This interview was conducted over email with Morghan Phillips, 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?

Morghan Phillips (MP): When I first got news of the Human Rights Certificate, I was thrilled. I hope to find a career in the human rights (law) field. Through my Cultural Anthropology Major, I was already trying to take human rights related course, so I knew that the human rights certificate would be the perfect fit for me!

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

MP:  The interdisciplinary study of human rights has been unique from a lot of my other academic experiences in that it is more focused on actually engaging with the Durham community. In my human rights courses I have been encouraged to actually go out into the community and talk to local residents and learn about the history and human rights issues that are all around me. 

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

MP: Outside of my human rights courses, I have done service learning work, internships  and other projects that have engaged with the practice of human rights. Over the summer, I did a brief internship with the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) in Kingston, Jamaica. This office works to protect and defend the rights of children in need of care and protection, and through my internship I was able to get an introduction to the practice of children’s rights. I currently serve as a an English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)  teaching assistant with Church World Service Durham, which has opened my mind to the refugee rights and the process of integration in practice. Furthermore, I recently started working on the Duke Law Innocence Project (DLIP), which works to exonerate victims of wrongful convictions by investigating claims of actual innocence. My position on the events committee allows me to create programming to thank the honorees for allowing DLIP to work on their cases and to spread awareness about this very important work.

KJ: Do you have specific human rights interests?

MP: When it comes to human rights, I am interested in a little bit of everything. However, my own identity factors tend to play a large factor in my more specific interests. As a young black woman, with immigrant parents, who has grappled with mental health, I am most interested in issues of mass incarceration, immigration, women’s/reproductive rights, linguistic rights and the intersection of human rights and mental health.  

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

MP: This certificate has allowed me to network with people in the field and to learn about facets of the field that will be useful in my law school application process and in my specialization later on. 

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

MP: The panel with Jayne Huckerby, Associate Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Human Rights Clinic at the Duke Law School was truly touching for me. After hearing Professor Huckerby talk about what brought her to human rights advocacy and her path in the field, I felt a lot more confident in my decision to pursue human rights law. For me, it confirmed that this is a career path that I am genuinely interested in rather than something pushed onto me by parents/the expectations of others.