This interview was conducted over email with Stefanie Pousoulides, a senior 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. Stefanie is earning a major in Political Science with a minor in International Comparative Studies, and was awarded the Human Rights Research Grant in 2020.

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

Stefanie Pousoulides (SP): During the spring semester of my junior year, I realized that I had already taken various human rights elective courses and could become a student in the certificate program. I had already attended various events hosted by the Human Rights Center, and, after declaring three majors, two certificates and a minor over the course of my time at Duke, I have yet to find a program that cares more deeply about its communities and reshaping education than the Human Rights Certificate program.

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

(SP): The Human Rights Certificate program is a unique space to engage with our communities and reimagine our world as an equitable one. I have learned so much from Human Rights Center opportunities, especially as a summer human rights grant researcher, and loved all of my human rights courses. I make an effort to incorporate what I’ve learned into my everyday life and research.

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

(SP): Through its interactive events, courses and opportunities in Durham, the program has definitely showed me what it means to be a scholar activist across disciplines. I wouldn’t be pursuing my two senior theses how I currently am without my experiences in the Human Rights program. Specifically, I reflected on what I learned through the program to add another layer to my thesis on post-genocide Armenians, which now focuses on the political memory of their home, and to my thesis on American presidential promises, which now includes a case study on presidents’ promises to the LGBTQ+ community.

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

(SP): I’m hoping to work for a year or two in a field dedicated to human rights prior to pursuing a Ph.D. in political science and a J.D. My knowledge on human rights protections motivates my research, and the Human Rights program has taught me how important conducting research as a scholar activist is.

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

(SP): In a course called Genocide and Human Rights, our professor (Bill Sharman) introduced us to a digitized oral history archive of testimonies of genocide survivors as a resource for our research papers. An oral history I based my research paper off of for that class inspired my undergraduate thesis project, and Bill’s advice and the class discussions continue to influence how I view my research today. I analyzed more oral histories from that archive as a Human Rights Grant recipient this past summer, and I use dozens of survivors’ oral histories in my thesis.

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

(SP): The Human Rights program has shaped me into a more empathetic person and thinker. My time in the program has sparked me to reflect upon my family’s history in a genocide and to be more active in doing what I can to bring solace to genocide survivors and their descendants. Ultimately, I have learned the power of memory, how to reconcile with the past and radically reimagine our future.