This interview was conducted over email with Semhal Araya, a senior undergraduate student enrolled in the Human Rights Certificate Program, completing a major in Political Science and a minor in Computer Science, by Miranda Gershoni, a second-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?

Semhal Araya (SA): I decided to declare the human rights certificate because I feel that it offers me a specific lens to perceive my political science major. The major has so many different concentrations and such a variety of classes but this certificate allows me to reevaluate what I learn in political science classes with a different approach.

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

SA: This program is so unique to me because there is so much flexibility in what constitutes a human rights course. While the site provides recommended classes for each semester, there is room to challenge your definition of human rights and take other classes as electives. The subject is dynamic and ever-growing as communities continue to fight for equality and we become aware of it.

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

SA: With this certificate, I studied abroad in South Africa and was able to witness what I was learning in real life. I heard firsthand stories and was able to meet/explore different communities and regions to better understand the issues. I was also able to see how my peers and I fit into things as American scholars and our impact being there.

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

SA: I feel like everything I have learned is applicable in everyday conversations. While it is particularly relevant with my political science major, it also pertains to current events.

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

SA: The interdisciplinary nature of the program brought me to the Documentary Studies Department that I wouldn’t have otherwise explored. It introduced me to Professor Tim Tyson, who I have taken two classes with now. In these classes, I have engaged in the most meaningful discussions and produced the papers that I am proudest and most passionate about from my time at Duke.