This interview was conducted over email with Olivia Kramer, 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. Olivia is earning a major in Political Science with certificates in Human Rights and Human Rights and Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE).

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

Olivia Kramer (OK): The first course I enrolled in at Duke was Prof. Juliette Duara’s “Human Rights and Legal Redress” which immediately peaked my interest in the legal complexities associated with human rights. Through this course, I acquired an understanding of the international, regional and local human rights conventions and structures which propose, cultivate and enforce human rights norms. During the semester, a representative from the certificate program came to speak to our class and at that point I knew that I wanted to continue my exposure to human rights studies through enrollment in the program. 

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

OK: The interdisciplinary nature of the Human Rights certificate definitely sets it apart from other certificate offerings at Duke. There is incredible flexibility with regards to coursework which truly allows students to tailor the program to their particular interests. For example, I have taken classes in Political Science, Religious Studies, Global Health to fulfill my requirements. 

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

OK: As I mentioned earlier, I have been able to enroll in courses in a wide-range of departments, which has allowed me to understand human rights through various lenses and to begin to form my own conceptualization of human rights. 

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

OK: Given that I intend to pursue a Juris Doctor and eventually a career in international human rights law, the certificate has certainly laid the foundations for my knowledge of the international human rights system and the challenges it continues to face. I am certain that this experience has rendered me well-prepared to embark on this career path. 

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

OK: Listening to Ellen Andrews from Church World Service speak about the state of refugee policy was an impactful moment for me. It was actually that lecture during Prof. Robin Kirk’s “Introduction to Human Rights” that catalyzed my interest in refugee advocacy and led me to work with CWS local office here in Durham. 

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

OK: This program has made me a more attentive to the injustices people have faced and continue to face in our world. I have become increasingly driven to use my education to advocate for vulnerable persons whose rights are threatened. Moreover, I find myself able to discuss and debate contentious human rights issues with confidence in my knowledge of the subject matter.