Barbara Frey Fellowship established to support emerging human rights leaders

Minnesota is recognized as a global center of human rights advocacy by virtue of the work carried out by its many leaders inside and outside of NGOs, politics, and academia. The University of Minnesota has been central to this reputation through its support for research, teaching, and public engagement in the field of human rights. Barbara Frey is the former director of the University of Minnesota’s Human Rights Program and a champion of human rights advocacy in Minnesota with a career spanning work in numerous NGO’s, including, but not limited to, The Advocates for Human Rights and the Center for Victims of Torture.

The Barbara Frey Fellowship, established in 2022, promotes the legacy of Frey through the development of human rights leaders, and supports a year of full-time employment in the field of human rights for an exceptional graduating student from a professional or PhD level program of the University of Minnesota. The annual fellowship supports active engagement in the work of a nongovernmental or intergovernmental organization dedicated to the advancement of human rights domestically and/or internationally. The fellowship gives priority to graduating Master of Human Rights students who have demonstrated an interdisciplinary commitment to pursuing a career in international human rights and who have an invitation to work at a host organization. Support such as this is essential in providing a bridge to a graduating student as they begin their professional journey as a human rights advocate. 

The Fellowship is supported by a group of generous donors (noted below) who, in order to mark the occasion of Frey’s retirement, joined together to establish the Barbara Frey Human Rights Fund, hosted by the Minneapolis Foundation. The Frey Fund strives to invest in advancing the next generation of human rights advocates, and building future leaders to carry on Minnesota’s legacy in human rights.

     Samuel D. Heins and Stacey Mills Jim and Dee Dorsey
     Kathryn Sikkink and Doug Johnson Elissa Peterson
     Tom Nelson Barbara Frey and Howard Orenstein
     Louis and Nadia Smith  

This initial group of donors has donated or pledged almost half of the goal for the Barbara Frey Fund: $500,000 total over the ten years the fellowship will be awarded. We would be delighted if you would consider joining us to meet this goal with a multi-year gift or pledge. Please join this circle of donors by contacting Barbara Frey ( or Paul Odegaard (

Master of Human Rights alum Veronica Cadavid-Gonzales (left) and retired Executive Director of the Human Rights Program Barbara Frey (right).
Verónica Cadavid González (MHR '22) (left) and Barbara Frey (right)

The 2022 Inaugural Frey Fellow, Verónica Cadavid González, is hosted by The Advocates for Human Rights, the organization that Frey helped to found and directed in its first decade. Verónica is a passionate and gifted human rights advocate who graduated from the University of Minnesota in May 2022 with a Master’s degree in Human Rights. Since receiving her Bachelor of Laws degree from the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana (Medellin, Colombia) in 2018, Verónica has built an impressive background as a human rights lawyer, researcher, and advocate, serving as a researcher at the Museum of Human Rights Memory (Casa de la Memoria), a professional intern with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, and as a Research Consultant on economic and social rights issues with the Human Rights Center in the University of Minnesota’s Law School. We are thrilled that Verónica was selected as the inaugural Barbara Frey Fellow and we look forward to following her work with The Advocates as well as the work of future Frey Fellows.

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