This interview was conducted over email with Sarah Kane, 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.

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

Sarah Kane (SK): I was really interested in international affairs in high school, especially as it relates to human rights. So when I found out about the human rights certificate during Blue Devil Days, I was really excited to get a chance to get a foundation in human rights. After I took the intro class, I realized this was the path I wanted to pursue in my career and I was hooked!

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

SK: The Human Rights Center puts on excellent and unique programming that really supplements the certificate’s courses. The Center also a Student Advisory Board, which is just one of the great ways for students to engage with human rights and advocacy outside of the class room. The certificate is also very flexible, allowing students to pursue a multidisciplinary education that can end up being more holistic than taking courses in a single department.

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

SK: I’ve been able to take courses in departments and topics I don’t think I would have explored otherwise. I’ve also been encouraged to engage more in experiential opportunities, like the Student Advisory Board and DukeEngage. Those experiences always ended up being the most rewarding because I’ve been pushed to escape my comfort zone and learn by doing.

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

SK: Through my current contributor position at Genocide Watch, I’ve realized how important all the things I’ve learned through the certificate will be for my career. In the future, I hope to continue to work for human rights-minded non-profits for a few years before pursuing my Master’s degree. Through my experiences and coursework, I’ve found that I’m really interested in refugee rights and other migration issues, so I hope to be able to use that knowledge in my career path as well.

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

SK: I travelled to Belgrade, Serbia through DukeEngage in the summer of 2019 and got the opportunity to provide hands-on service to refugees. Speaking to those who were just passing through as well as those who decided to settle in Belgrade was an experience like no other. It just gave me the kind of perspective you can’t learn in a classroom. I also never thought I’d be interested in on-site humanitarian aid delivery, but this experience definitely changed my mind.

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

SK: The certificate has definitely made me more aware of human rights at a local and global scale. Though imperfect, it’s provided a helpful lens through which I view the world around me. I’ve also learned a lot about active listening and approaching situations with empathy.