20th Anniversary Alumni Reflections: Whitney Taylor

Whitney Taylor looking straight at camera, smiling.

In celebration of the Human Rights Program's 20th Anniversary, Whitney Taylor (B.A. Global Studies & Political Science '13) 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?

Whitney Taylor (WT): While working with the Human Rights Program, I organized and developed content for the website, including event write-ups and faculty profiles, and contributed to the monthly newsletter. I did a bunch of small tasks, mostly related to Program events, here and there as well.

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

WT: The Human Rights Program gave me a career path – working with the HRP was really my first step into the world of academia. I met professors who encouraged me to pursue graduate studies and mentored me from my time at the U to the present day. Ideas sparked during a presentation by a Human Rights fellow (Diana Quintero) during a class taught by a Human Rights faculty member (Lisa Hilbink) ultimately became my dissertation – and now book manuscript.

HRP: What are you doing now? 

WT: A little over two years ago, I completed my PhD at Cornell University and accepted a tenure-track position in the political science department at San Francisco State University. I primarily teach Introduction to Comparative Politics, Law and Courts in Comparative Perspective, and Writing in Political Science, in addition to other upper-division comparative politics classes.

I have also been helping to coordinate “department dialogues” on race and privilege between political science students and faculty at State. Along with two other faculty members, I facilitated faculty focus groups and trained undergraduate students to facilitate focus groups for their peers. We then compiled what we learned in these focus group sessions into a report, which also features a set of short-, medium-, and long-term actions we plan to improve our department community.  

My research has been published in Comparative Political Studies, Comparative Politics, Law & Society Review, Law & Social Inquiry, and Sociological Perspectives. I am currently working on a book manuscript, titled The Social Constitution: Embedding Social Rights in Colombia. The project focuses on the constitutional codification of social promises as rights and the ability or willingness of citizens to make claims to those rights. In doing so, it examines how social constitutionalism – the widespread constitutional recognition of social rights and the empowerment of courts to hear claims to those rights – comes to be embedded, challenged, and solidified or dislodged.

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