This interview was conducted over email with Zara Porter, 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. Zara is earning a major in Public Policy and a Global Health Minor.

Zac Johnson (ZJ): Why did you decide to pursue the Human Rights Certificate?

Zara Porter (ZP): I decided to pursue the Human Rights Certificate after my Story+ experience working on the Allen Building Takeover project. During the six-week program, my research team and I explored the Duke Archives to learn more about the monumental Duke event. My team and I ended up creating a physical and online exhibit exploring the events of that day, as well as providing context and implications surrounding the event. I had the amazing opportunity to gain insight into the strides Black students made for civil rights at Duke. The Takeover set the tone for future student activists at Duke to have a mechanism to voice their grievances with the administration. By challenging the Duke system, these critically engaged students created long-lasting change that has made Duke a more welcoming and equitable community. Working on the project inspired me to continue my study of human rights and begin the certificate.

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

ZP: This certificate is unique from other programs because of the variety of phenomenal professors that teach a range of courses. All the professors are experts in their field and are excited to share their experiences and work with their students. I have gained so much insight into human rights work through lectures and discussions with my professors.

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

ZP: The multidisciplinary, experiential nature of the program is one of my favorite features of the program and was key in solidifying my choice to pursue the certificate. I have had the opportunity to take classes in Global Health, African and African American Studies, Political Science, and Education. Interacting with human rights from a multitude of perspectives has provided me with a holistic view of the field.

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

ZP: My passions lie at the intersection of policy, health care, and social justice. I plan to help shape policies focused on health disparities after graduation. Thus, I am planning to use the information and experiences I have gained from the certificate to bring a more humanistic view to policy. I believe having a human rights perspective while working in policy is essential when shaping policies that impact people’s lives. Especially with everything happening in our world today, passing or not passing policies can have large implications on the daily lives of people.

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

ZP: The most impactful moment from the program was my DukeEngage in Cape Town experience. Having the opportunity to interact and visit a country with a similar, yet very unique and vibrant history was life changing. The program really emphasized to me the interconnectedness of our world and how the push for social justice is an international struggle.

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

ZP: Taking the courses in the human rights program has influenced how I interact with people and digest information daily. The lessons from my academic courses are continually relevant in my conversations and daily existence in the world.