There are over 70,000 reported disappearances in Mexico since 2006. Most of these cases remain unsolved and very few have led to a conviction, as they are failed by a criminal justice system, and often characterized by silence, impunity and corruption. Take a look at how research team from the Observatory on Disappearances and Impunity in Mexico led by Human Rights Program Director Barbara Frey has worked to tackle this problem over the summer.
Mikyla Denney (MHR '21) is a second year Master of Human Rights student with a concentration in immigration/migration. Over the summer, Mikyla worked with Refugees International, assisting the organization's President Eric Schwartz on a range of projects and research initiatives. Read our interview with Mikyla below to hear about her experience.
Vanesa Mercado Diaz is a second year Master of Human Rights student with a concentration in women’s rights, migration and Latin America. This past summer, Vanesa worked within the Women’s Rights division at The Advocates for Human Rights, a nonprofit organization that works to change systems and conditions that cause human rights abuses around the world. We recently caught-up with Vanesa about her summer experience in the short interview below.
After the murder of George Floyd, MHR students and alumni have focused on advocating for change within the university, actively promoting racial equity, inclusion and anti-racist sentiments throughout every aspect of the institution.
Audel Shokohzadeh is a Master of Public Policy Alumnus ('17) who graduated with a concentration in Economic Development. Audel also has a deep interest in human rights, and took a variety of human rights courses throughout his masters degree. Currently, Audel works as a Community Engagement Director at the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. We caught up with Audel to hear about his role, and how his human rights focus at the Humphrey School helped prepare him for this work.
A diverse group of University of Minnesota faculty and students spent a week at the United Nations, attending the Human Rights Council and leading meetings to advance their work on a variety of human rights projects.
A delegation of University of Minnesota faculty, researchers, students and alumni will be participating in a variety of research and outreach events at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva during the week of March 2-6, 2020. The week culminates with a public discussion by the Human Rights Lab on research ethics in faculty-student-practitioner partnerships. The visit coincides with two important sessions of the Human Rights Council and the Human Rights Committee.
Hannah Shireman is a second year Master of Human Rights student. This past summer, she worked as a Research, Education, and Advocacy Intern at The Advocates for Human Rights, working on to combat local labor trafficking. Hannah wrote about her experience here.
Karen Chonofsky is a second-year Masters of Human Rights Student. This past summer, she interned with Vital Voices, an international organization that works towards the empowerment of women around the world. Karen reflected back on this experience in the write-up.
Tonje Boerresen is second-year MHR student from Norway with a background in law. This summer she interned with the Center for Victims of Torture in St. Paul. Working with their New Tactics Team, Tonje helped develop unique resources for advocates and activists within human rights designed to help them work on their own issues from their specific regions. Read Tonje's reflection on this fascinating work and how working with a large nonprofit organization such as CVT will help guide her in her professional career path.
Raven Ziegler is a second-year Masters of Human Rights Student. This summer she worked as a tactical intern at Amnesty International USA in Washington D.C., conducting legislative and policy research on immigration in the United States, and helping to develop and edit several of AI's campaigns, initiatives and reports. Raven shared some of her relections on the experience in the write-up below.
Paul Olubayo is a second-year Masters of Human Rights Program Student. This summer, he interned with Refugees International in Washington D.C. conducting research and reports on a number of policies, as well as a summer-long project regarding global policies and initiatives to provide protection/assistance for individuals affected by displacement due to climate change. We asked him about his experience with them over the summer, and how it has impacted his view of the human rights field.
Katie Burke is a second-year Master of Human Rights student pursuing a concentration in children's rights and a minor in law. This summer she gained valuable experience in this area as she returned to her home country of Scotland to intern with Together, the Scottish Alliance for Children's Rights. In this piece, Katie tells us how she worked to research and draft a comprehensive report, the State of Children’s Rights, that lays out the challenges in policy and practice to realizing children’s rights in Scotland.
Olga Salazar worked in Monterrey, Mexico over the summer interviewing journalists to better understand the correlation between the politics of information and accountability in cases of disappearances. Her research is helping to identify best practices in journalism that lead to better outcomes for the families in a country in which over 40,000 persons have disappeared.
In the 2019-2020 academic year two of our MHR students are benefiting from Foreign Language & Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships. These Fellowships provide students with financial support to integrate the study of a “less commonly taught language” into their overall course of study.
Hunter Johnson (MHR ‘20) is producing a documentary on the role of the press in combating enforced disappearances and impunity in Mexico. “Since 2006, over 40,000 people have disappeared in Mexico. This film illustrates how exceptional reporters work with victims' families to demand state accountability in the search for their loved ones, helping to put an end to this ongoing human rights crisis.” Hunter received the Dunn Peace Research Scholarship to investigate and film this project in Mexico.
Brooke Chambers, a third year Sociology PhD student, studies some of the most difficult questions facing human rights scholars--how to understand and respond to the multi-generational effects of instances of mass violence. With a particular focus on the Rwandan genocide, Brooke is using her education to seek a better understanding of how genocidal violence reverberates throughout space and time, along with how Rwandan society remembers and commemorates the Genocide. Next semester she will conduct field research in Rwanda, interviewing young adults about their experiences growing up in a post-genocide society.
Since graduating from the University of Minnesota, Sarah Super has been unstoppable in raising awareness around sexual violence and advocating for survivors. Read more about the work she is doing, including her diligent efforts to raise funds for a Memorial for Survivors of Sexual Violence. Please consider making a donation to make this project possible.
Daniel Lynx Bernard started his career as a journalist and then returned to school at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs for the MPA program. Now, he is working on projects in Morocco to encourage the democratic participation of civilians.
As journalists and activists continue reporting on the human rights violations happening in immigration detention, Human Rights and Immigrant Rights organizations and advocates mobilize to lobby their Congressional leaders to vote against additional appropriations for immigrant detention facilities. Among them are a group of Minnesota students, including three Master of Human Rights students. The team recently attended the FCNL Lobby Weekend in Washington D.C. and were given extensive training on how to lobby Congressional leaders on issues related to immigration and refugee rights. They also were able to practice their new skills by lobbying four of Minnesota's Congresswomen to vote against increased funding for immigration detention, among other issues.
Andrea Daniela Martínez, a recent graduate from the Master of Human Rights Program, discusses how her journey from Mexico to Minnesota has been transformative for her as a student and professional in the United States. Now working at the Advocates for Human Rights as the Human Trafficking Legal Case Manager, Andrea is putting her human rights education into practice.
Ivan Lopez Justiniano is a second year Master of Human Rights Student who spent winter break working on a fact-finding mission regarding the experiences of LGBTI individuals in Kenya. Using the skills he has gained from the Master of Human Rights program and working in collaboration with other experts, Ivan will spend spring semester developing a report for the Universal Periodic Review of the United Nations.
Elexis Trinity is a second year Master of Human Rights Student who had the opportunity to work for Carver County Public Health, managed two conferences for the Catalyst Initiative of the Minneapolis Foundation, and has just started work with the Hennepin County Department of Community Corrections and Rehabilitation to create a community advisory board. Read more about Elexis's experiences here.
The Observatory on Disappearances and Impunity in Mexico is an ongoing project in which researchers seek to understand the complexities of disappearances and impunity in Mexico. A dynamic, interdisciplinary team led by HRP Director Barbara Frey is moving into a new stage in research, documenting reporting on disappearances in Mexico media. Undergraduate and graduate student researchers on the team are working closely with top human rights and research methods experts in Mexico, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
University of Minnesota alumna Emily Strasser attributes several recent accomplishments to her time as Scribe for Human Rights Fellow. The unique opportunity offered to Creative Writing MFA students by the Human Rights Program allowed Emily to travel to India to research and interview key voices that influenced her later work, and opened doors to new scholarships and fellowships.
Dr. Calla Brown, second year Master of Human Rights student and Academic General Pediatrics Fellow, is exploring the intersections of human rights and health research and practice. This past year, Calla analyzed data regarding the health services received by incarcerated youth in Minnesota, served on the Migrant Health Elective, joined the board for Doctors of Global Health, and volunteered at the College of Medicine in Malawi.
Second year MHR student Eaint Thiri Thu combined her past human rights professional experiences with new tools she has learned in the MHR program to her fellowship this summer at the United States Institute of Peace. Working in their Asia Division on Burma issues, Thiri got the opportunity to network with and learn from other great human rights advocates and gain a deeper understanding about the peace building process. Read about her great summer experience here.
This summer, second year MHR student Ivan Lopez Justiniano interned at Minneapolis-based Global Rights for Women and supported a research project for HRP Program Director Barbara Frey's project, the Observatory on Disappearances in Mexico. During his busy summer, these roles opened Ivan's eyes to the types of organizations he plans to focus on during his post-graduate job search. Learn more about the new skills and insights Ivan gained from his summer work in this piece.
Second year MHR student and visual artist J. Wren Supak is seeking new ways to merge her expertise in the arts and human rights. This summer, she had the opportunity to take this research to Colombia. Through collaborating with theater groups and Colombian artists, Wren sought to understand how theater could act as a vehicle to peace and a means of trauma negotiation for conflict survivors. Read more about Wren's experience here.
Second year MHR student Sachal Jacob spent his summer internship in DC focusing on protecting religious freedom. Through his work, he got the opportunity to attend a watershed event hosted by the State Department called the "Ministerial on International Religious Freedom." Learn about where Sachal worked, his key takeaways, and more about the inaugural Ministerial.
Alli Strong, a second year Master of Human Rights student, spent her summer in Eugene, Oregon, interning for Mobility International, USA. During her rich experience, Alli learned about how to apply human rights advocacy tactics to disability rights work and exercised her evaluation skills. Read Alli's internship spotlight to learn more about her experiences working both behind the scenes and directly with Mobility International, USA clients.
This year's Scallen Lecture "Principled Voices" Series focused on "Protecting the Press in Myanmar (Burma)." Expert panelists spoke on current risks to freedom of the press and expression in Myanmar, potential future developments, and how international actors and Myanmar political officials should respond. Read more about the panelists' analysis and insights on protecting Myanmar's press freedom.
Second year MHR student Maryam Ahmed spent her summer interning for African Development Solutions (ADESO) in Nairobi, Kenya, with support from a Human Rights Program Fellowship. During her time with ADESO, she dove into researching the links between international development and human rights, as well as understanding the inner-workings of development non-profit at the ground level. Read more about her transformative experience in her internship spotlight.
Ben Gronowski, second year Master of Human Rights student, spent his summer working at the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion. He focused on a variety of research and evaluation projects for the organization, and also helped in facilitating the organization's annual Stateless Summer Course in the Netherlands. Read more about Ben's experience and what he learned here.
This summer, Human Rights Master student Ana Vergara interned as a Refugee Campaigner at Amnesty International in Washington D.C. Funded by a fellowship from the Human Rights Program, Ana says that this internship experience was the best internship she has ever had. Learn more about her work on family separation issues and supporting Hollywood actors and producers in incorporating more diverse voices into their shows and films.
MPP/MSW and human rights minor student Julia Wilber and MHR student Hayley Drozdowski both interned at Refugees International (RI) in Washington D.C. this summer. Hayley also worked remotely as a research intern for the International Rescue Committee. Thanks in part to generous funds from the Human Rights Program, both students engaged in interesting and challenging projects related to topics like the U.S. Southwest border, the Rohingya crisis, refugee resettlement, amongst others. They also got the chance to work closely with former Humphrey Dean and current RI President, Eric Schwartz. Read more about their exciting summers in this piece.
Human Rights Masters student Shelby Ankrom put her learning from Professor Barb Frey's Human Rights Advocacy course into practice during her summer internship at the Center for Victims of Torture (CVT). While supporting CVT's New Tactics in Human Rights program, Shelby used her knowledge from Professor Frey's course and the experience working closely with New Tactics training materials to better understand the wide variety of human rights advocacy tactics available to practitioners. In this piece, Shelby shares some of her most salient takeaways from her time at CVT and the ways in which she sees her internship as a stepping stone to future professional positions.
MPP student Fadumo Osman has incorporated human rights scholarship into her studies through the Human Rights Minor curriculum. She was able to dig into this even more during her summer internship with UN-Habitat in Kenya in their Human Rights Mainstreaming Program. In this piece, Fadumo shares the way her role in the Housing Department of the program helped her to learn and grow into a more seasoned human rights practitioner.
Passionate about the intersections of literature, human rights, and education, Aleisha Smith has a dizzying number of questions left to explore. We sat down with her to get to know her and discuss her past work, academic interests and experience as a Human Rights minor.
Nico Ramos Flores, a Spanish and Portuguese Studies PhD candidate, is writing his dissertation on Afro-Caribbean/Afro-Latino literature. Yet, Nico recently crossed into a new disciplinary field to work with Professor Greta Friedemann-Sanchez on her project, “Family Commissioners: Fostering Justice, Security and Peace in Colombian Families in the Post-Conflict Era” (COLPAZ).
Research Assistant Heider Tun Tun travelled to Guatemala to help find truthful, reliable data about the IDP crisis in El Salvador. The work assisted Prof. McNamara in his HRI grant project, "From IDPs to Refugees: Forced Migration in El Salvador."
Master of Human Rights student, Anna Rincon, made substantial contributions to the global movement to end violence against women and girls through her summer internship with Global Rights for Women (GRW). The conference reinforced Anna’s priorities and reaffirmed her career goals. She was excited to be part of a growing global movement to end violence against women and girls, while representing a leading organization, in the fight to end domestic violence.
Jacqulyn, a Masters of Human Rights student, spent three months in Washington D.C. as an intern for Human Rights Watch (HRW) while there she worked on many projects including the Cluster Munition Monitor. Jacqulyn was a part of this project from start to finish, she researched and wrote about countries which have stock piles of cluster munitions substantially contributing to the final report.
Richa Sharma dedicated her summer to protecting those most vulnerable to sexual and gender based violence to ensure the cycle of violence is broken. As a Masters of Humans Rights student, Richa spent the summer in Geneva, Switzerland as an intern for the Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) Unit within the Division of International Protection (DIP) at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Master of Human Rights candidate Andrea Martínez participated in a conference and workshop where she was able to network and explain research regarding the potential for local funding of Mexican local human rights organizations.
Roy Guzman is in his third and final year of the MFA Creative Writing Program at the University of Minnesota. A passionate poet, he uses his experience from his homeland roots in Honduras and his journey of understanding queerness to write and create social change.
Through their internship with Minneapolis based non-profit Children for Incarcerated Caregivers, UMN students have the opportunity to do research, gain global perspectives, and create policies to improve the lives of children with incarcerated parents.
Paula Cuellar, PhD candidate in history and human rights minor, has received three prestigious awards for her dissertation, which focuses on the scorched earth campaigns used during the civil wars in Guatemala and El Salvador.