20th Anniversary Alumni Reflections: Meizani Irmadhiany

Meizani Irmadhiany standing outside, smiling.

In celebration of the Human Rights Program's 20th Anniversary, Meizani Irmadhiany (B.A. Global Studies & Political Science '07) 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?

Meizani Irmadhiany (MI): I first started working in human rights and learned about the Human Rights Program (HRP) during my freshman year at the University of Minnesota. In addition to coordinating the resource center at the U of M Law School Human Rights Center, I took Professor Barbara Frey’s course on Human Rights Law during my sophomore year. In my senior year, I worked at the HRP conducting research and developing web tools. Working with peers I met at the HRP, we formed a new student group focused on human rights and helped to organize an international conference on human trafficking in the tourism industry.

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

MI: After finishing my degree, I returned to my home country of Indonesia where I worked on migrant labor issues (i.e. Indonesian domestic workers going abroad) for a year and after that decided to pursue a career in the private sector. This decision was primarily driven by seeing the context of the country and the importance of establishing decent work within the country to fulfill basic economic needs and safeguarding the positive multiplier effect of development in developing markets such as Indonesia.

My experience in the private sector spans over 12 years and includes work in renewable energy, sustainable land-use, agriculture and other industries. In the different roles I worked to engage communities, build sustainable business while ensuring environment and social safeguards. In my last post, I worked in sustainable natural rubber and was instrumental in building a natural rubber business aimed at developing sustainable production in a highly complex and often difficult landscape. We led the transformation of the business, and focused on environment and social safeguards to achieve long term viable business strategies and which led to the issuance of Asia Pacific’s first corporate sustainability bond.

My experience and networking in the HRP is invaluable. It shaped not only my professional principles and approaches, but has also led to lifelong relationships. Barb’s mentorship early on in my career and studies, and even after graduation, has always been a source of great joy. She reminded me early on to always keep a healthy work-life balance, to always go beyond our studies and engage in the communities, to always be valued accordingly for our work, and to be kind no matter the difficulties and challenges in the work that may lie ahead. And the friendships I made through the network at HRP, still remains tight even after all the years and many of us moving to different parts of the world. We all speak fondly of our experiences with HRP, of being students of Barb, and how it brought us close through studying and working together.

HRP: What are you doing now? 

MI: I recently joined Conservation International, as the Deputy Senior Vice President for Asia Pacific, leading the Indonesia program. I work across the region to implement strategies and develop partnerships with private and public sectors to achieve best outcomes for people and nature. Climate change is an issue that greatly impacts our generation and the next, and conservation efforts must take into account local communities and Indigenous Peoples that may be the most vulnerable groups facing these issues.

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