20th Anniversary Alumni Reflections: Kaela McConnon Diarra

Kaela McConnon Diarra looking straight at camera, smiling.

In celebration of the Human Rights Program's 20th Anniversary, Kaela McConnon Diarra (B.A. Global Studies '11) recently shared with us her reflections on her time with the HRP and the impact it had on her career path.

Human Rights Program (HRP): What did you do with the Human Rights Program (HRP) while you were a student at the University of Minnesota?

Kaela McConnon Diarra (KMD): I worked as a program assistant for the Human Rights Program as an undergraduate student.  It was the most influential experience of my undergraduate career, because I was able to engage deeply in human rights issues and advocacy spanning such a wide range of issues from child abduction in South Sudan to long term solitary confinement in US prisons. A particularly impactful experience was visiting and engaging in advocacy at the United Nations regarding human rights violations committed with small arms and light weapons

HRP: How did your work with the HRP affect your career path?

KMD: My work with the Human Rights Program inspired my interest in doing international human rights work following completing my undergraduate degree.  I moved to Senegal, where I worked for Tostan's Prison Prison, a program providing human rights education and basic social services in prisons throughout the country. My work at HRP also inspired my interest in law, especially after taking the international human rights law course. This was a major factor in my decision to go to law school and become an attorney.

HRP: What are you doing now? 

KMD: I am currently the Interim Manager of the Complaint Investigations Division at the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department.  We receive and investigate complaints of discrimination occurring within the City of Minneapolis in a variety of areas including employment and housing.  I also act as a volunteer attorney with the Advocates for Human Rights, working on asylum cases.  I recently taught a semester of the same international human rights law course I took as an undergraduate student--which was such fun!

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