HRP’s Arvonne Fraser Fellow Applies Knowledge of Public Health Disparities to Her Summer Internship

In 2018, the Human Rights Program established the Don and Arvonne Fraser Fellowships to support summer field experience in human rights organizations for undergraduate students at the University of Minnesota. Named after the late Congressman and Minneapolis mayor Donald Fraser and his wife Arvonne Fraser, the fellowships honor the contributions the two made to human rights in the Twin Cities and beyond.

As Human Rights Program Director Emerita Barbara Frey wrote in 2019, “it was Rep. Don Fraser who truly pioneered the primacy of international human rights in U.S. foreign policy,” with his tireless efforts for State Department reform. And Arvonne Fraser—a trailblazing women’s rights activist in her own right—was a renowned political staffer and advocate who co-founded the Center on Women, Gender and Public Policy at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women from 1993 to 1994.

Each spring, applications are made available for the paid, 10-week positions to all University of Minnesota undergraduates, with recipients announced in late April. This year’s Fraser Fellows, Kathleen Zhang (Don Fraser Fellowship) and Zeinab Mohamud (Arvonne Fraser Fellowship) were placed with the International Justice Program at The Advocates for Human Rights and Global Rights for Women, respectively. Read more about this year's Don Fraser Fellow

The Human Rights Program spoke with Mohamud, a rising senior majoring in biology, society, and environment with a minor in public health, about her experience following the end of her placement in August. 

Zeinab Mohamud (CLA '23)

Human Rights Program (HRP): What are you studying at the University of Minnesota and what do you hope to pursue as a career? How did either your studies or your future career path lead you to apply for the Fraser Fellowship?

Zeinab Mohamud (ZM): I am majoring in biology, society, and environment with a minor in public health at the U and I am aiming to pursue a career in health care. I have always been passionate about human rights, health disparities and humanitarian aid which is why I am so thankful to have come across the Fraser Fellowship. As I interned and volunteered, I always came across many unfortunate situations that are happening in the world which resulted in my passion and dedication to human rights growing.

(HRP): Can you describe your summer internship? With which organization did you work with and what type of work did you do?

(ZM): My summer internship was amazing! I worked with Global Rights for Women and my work centered around social media content and helping with research needed depending on the projects GRW was working on. I was a development and communications intern so creating social media content and adding statistics to our research was my main focus. 

(HRP): How did the internship add to your professional/educational experience, as well as your personal growth?

(ZM): This internship has allowed me to see and experience how nonprofits operate and work with others who are just as passionate about human rights as I am. What I am most proud of is how solidified my dedication to global rights alongside women’s health signified. It has shown me how important it is to look into what’s happening around the world, and how to support organizations that are doing incredible work globally, but also domestically. 

(HRP): What were some skills or academic knowledge that you had prior to starting this internship that allowed you to be successful during your internship? 

(ZM): I am thankful for my past experiences in researching topics such as the ones GRW touches on, creating content for social media as I was the public relations chair for my student organization, and curiosity! I always strive to learn about what’s occurring because to begin the fight for justice, you first need to become aware. 

(HRP): What advice do you have to other students who might be interested in pursuing a career in a field of human rights similar to yourself?

(ZM): Do it! We have so many opportunities on campus to learn more about the field. Human rights is a critical and important field as it encompasses everything that we know. It is the key to building the world that we want and the world that we need. Everyone deserves to have their rights upheld as they are unalienable and universal.

With the disparities that are hurting those around us, if we speak up and learn more about rights we are taking that first step which is an absolutely crucial step towards a more just world.

This is why you should follow your interests even if they are miniscule because passion grows bit by bit and you can always find a way that human rights connects with your chosen career field as well. Good luck; I know that we all have it within us.

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