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Meet Our Graduate Students

MHR Alum Hunter Johnson with Darwin Franco and Dalia Souza, protagonists of his documentary film

Uplifting Human Rights Leaders Through Documentary Filmmaking

This spring the Human Rights Program will be publishing a comprehensive web-based report and database discussing the UMN-based team's component of the project. Leading up to the report release, this three part series will share three blog posts by key members of the Observatory team. This first installment is written by Hunter Johnson covering his documentary Until We Find Them.
Iván Lopez Justiniano

MHR Alum Evaluates Social Justice-Oriented Programs in Minnesota

Join us in celebrating the achievements of Master of Human Rights alum Iván Lopez Justiniano (MHR '19)! After graduating with concentrations in Gender and Sexuality, as well as Race and Ethnicity, Iván went to work with the non-profit Rainbow Research doing program evaluation and research on social justice in Minnesota, especially as they relate to BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities. Learn more about Iván’s current work below. 
Andrea Daniela Martinez

MHR Alum Furthers Educational Readiness of Latinx Children

The Center on Women, Gender and Public Policy (CWGPP) included an interview with Andrea Daniela Martinez (MHR '19) in the Center's newsletter on February 17, 2021. Andrea is a former graduate assistant for the Center who focused on public policy, evaluation, immigration and women’s rights during her time in the Master of Human Rights Program. Read more about Andrea and her current work below! 
Sachal Jacob

MHR Alum Studies Intersections of Terrorism and Human Rights

Join us in celebrating the achievements of Master of Human Rights Program alum Sachal Jacob (MHR '19)! Having graduated with a concentration in International Conflict and Security, Sachal is now pursuing a doctoral degree in Political Science at Georgia State University and works as a fellow with the Transcultural Conflict and Violence Initiative. Learn more about Sachal’s current endeavors below.
Zoe Martens

Welcome the MHR Class of 2022: Zoe Martens

Welcome Zoe Martens to the Master’s of Human Rights class of 2022! Originally from Minneapolis, Zoe has spent time in Mexico both as a Fulbright recipient and doing legal advocacy work with migrants seeking asylum in Mexico. Zoe is excited to deepen her knowledge on and experience with migration and human rights advocacy work at the University of Minnesota. To learn more about Zoe, continue reading below!
Christopher Grathwol

MHR Student Assists in the Advancement of Unarmed Civilian Protection

Christopher Grathwol (MHR '21) is a second-year Master of Human Rights Student with a concentration in conflict and international security with a regional studies focus on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Over the summer, Christopher worked with Nonviolent Peaceforce assisting with multiple projects focused on unarmed civilian protection. To learn more about Christopher's experience, read our interview below!
Samiira Husein

Welcome the MHR Class of 2022: Samiira Husein

Welcome Samiira to the Master’s of Human Rights class of 2022! A Minneapolis native and graduate of the University of Minnesota Samiira, looking to deepen her knowledge of human rights in both theory and practice as well as acquire the hands-on experience necessary to promote the protection of Indigenous peoples’ rights, decided to apply to and attend the MHR program. Read below to learn more about Samiira! 
Bassel El Mrawed

Welcome the MHR Class of 2022: Bassel El Mrawed

Welcome Bassel, “Bas”, El Mrawed to the Master of Human Rights class of 2022! Bassel arrived in Minnesota from Lebanon, where he spent most of his life as a young adult, after having moved from Venezuela. Bas’s history working with NGOs on human rights issues, coupled with his personal experiences bearing witness to and experiencing injustices, discrimination, and poverty, have led him to pursue his studies in human rights at the University of Minnesota. Read below to get to know Bas!
Ta'Mara Hill

MHR Student Investigates Social Insurance Mechanisms in the United States

Ta'Mara Hill (MHR '21) is a second year Master of Human Rights student with a concentration in conflict and international security. This summer, Ta'Mara interned with the National Academy of Social Insurance where she had the opportunity to research U.S. social insurance systems, including through comparative analysis of U.S. health policies to other global health systems. Read our interview with Ta'mara below to hear about her experience.
Nkuli Shongwe

MHR Student Examines Protection Networks for Black Lives Matter Activists

Nonkululeko (Nkuli) Shongwe (MHR '21) is a second year Master of Human Rights student with a concentration in economic, cultural, and social justice. Over the summer, Nkuli worked with HRP Director Barbara Frey, Senior Fellow Janet Walsh, and other MHR students to develop a report in partnership with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN OHCHR) on protection networks for human rights advocates. Nkuli's work focused primarily on networks for Black Lives Matter advocates in the United States. Read our interview with Nkuli below to hear about her experience.
Photo by Hunter Johnson.

Building a Human Rights Database: A View from the Ground

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.
Paige McLain

MHR Student Researches New Techniques for Unarmed Civilian Protection

Paige McLain (MHR '21) is a second year Master of Human Rights student with a concentration in conflict and international security. Over the summer, Paige worked as a fellow for the Human Rights Lab where she had the opportunity to create a report for Nonviolent Peaceforce focused on unarmed civilian protection. We recently caught-up with Paige about her summer experience in the short interview below.
Vanesa Mercado Diaz

MHR Student Uses Summer to Promote Women's Rights

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.
Audel Shokohzadeh

Alum Works to Strengthen Community-Government Relations in Minnesota

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.
Two straight lines of flag poles displaying United Nations member state flags extending up a grassy alley to the Palais des Nations

Human Rights Lab Prepares for Geneva Trip

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.
Center for Victims of Torture

MHR Student Helps Provide New Tools for Activists and Advocates

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 protesting the US detention of immigrant minors at the Homestead Detention Facility.

On the Frontlines of Change

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 poses for a picture from a desktop

MHR Student Works on Global Displacement Crises

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.
Colorful illustration of children playing in "The Meadow of Rights"

MHR Student Dedicates Summer to Defending Children's Rights in Scotland

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.
Picture of PhD student Olga Salazar

Observatory Spotlight: PhD student continues research in Mexico

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.
Hunter Johnson

Hunter Johnson

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.
A young woman with long blond hair wearing a white tee shirt sits in a windowsill with a landscape of buildings, greenery, and bright sky behind her

A Sociological Human Rights Perspective

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.
Hands clasped together

Called to Action, Making Change

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.
3 women and 1 man stand in a line behind another woman and man smiling. One woman in the back row holds up a sign that reads "Minnesota."

Interdisciplinary Minnesota Delegation Lobbies Congress to Promote Immigrant Rights

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.
Flag with rainbow colors waving in sky

Fact Finding: LGBTI Experiences in Kenya

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 poses for camera, with blue hair, glasses, a blue shirt, and white jacket.

Collaborating Across Communities to Address Health and Wellbeing

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.
A group of 11 students and one professor stand in a classroom smiling. Most are wearing dark clothing and the professor is wearing a lime green blazer.

Training the Next Generation of Human Rights Advocates and Scholars

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.
image of blue and white globe with lifeline running through it

Identifying New Avenues for Advocacy in Health Care Equity

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.
An image of a lanscape with the dark outline of trees in the foreground and shadows of large temples behind them. The sky is a pale yellow and there's a smoky fog over the whole scene.

Student Internship Spotlight: Eaint Thiri Thu

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.
A small, white, circular button that reads "Women's Rights are Human Rights" in multi colored letters sits on top of the chest of someone wearing a grey tee-shirt with a brown bag strap across their body.

Student Internship Spotlight: Ivan Lopez Justiniano

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.
Brush strokes of yellow, then blue, and red stacked on top of one another to represent the flag of Colombia

Student Research Spotlight: J. Wren Supak

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.
A young woman with dirty blond shoulder length hair and glasses stands in front of the doors to a brick building. She is wearing a grey t-shirt that reads "Minnesota" with a large maroon "M" outlined in gold underneath.

Student Internship Spotlight: Alli Strong

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.
Three women, one with short dark hair in a black top, one with long black hair also in black, and the last with short auburn and curly hair, sit at a desk looking at one another in discussion.

This year's Scallen Lecture "Principled Voices" Series featured...

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.
A photo of a dusty brownish red landscape dotted with trees with a a cityscape featuring tall buildings in the background

Student Internship Spotlight: Maryam Ahmed

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.
An aerial shot of Washington D.C. showing many buildings, the Capitol Building, and the Washington Monument

Student Internship Spotlight: Ana Vergara

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.
A sticker reading "refugees welcome" with outlines of a family running is placed on a bar in front of a fuzzy city background

Student Internship Spotlight: Julia Wilber and Hayley Drozdowski

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.
A light bulb sits atop the words "strategy, innovation, vision, creativity, support, solution" and images of arrows and gears

Student Internship Spotlight: Shelby Ankrom

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.
A headshot of Fadumo Osman

Student Internship Spotlight: Fadumo Osman

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.
Nico Ramos Flores standing outside, with University of Minnesota sign, trees and bushes in background

Working Across Disciplinary Fields

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).
A picture of the attendees of the Making Laws Work to End Violence Against Women and Girls conference in Bucharest, Romania. June, 2017.

2nd Year MHR Student Anna Rincon's Global Fight for Women

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.
Young woman with long brown hair in formal attire standing infront of maroon background

MHR Student Kantack Works with Human Rights Watch to Reduce Harm and Prevent Use...

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.
young woman standing next to large sign that says United Nations Nations Unies

MHR Student Richa Sharma Dedicates Summer to Combating Gender Based Violence

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).
Guzman leaning against a tree

Far from Los Catrachos

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.