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Welcome the MHR Class of 2022: Zoe Martens

November 20, 2020

Zoe Martens

Zoe Martens
Zoe Martens

Welcome Zoe Martens to the Master’s of Human Rights class of 2022! Originally from Minneapolis, Zoe has spent time in Mexico both as a Fulbright recipient and doing legal advocacy work with migrants seeking asylum in Mexico. Zoe is excited to deepen her knowledge on and experience with migration and human rights advocacy work at the University of Minnesota. To learn more about Zoe, continue reading below!

Zoe Martens, originally from Minneapolis, MN, completed her undergraduate degree at Oberlin College in Ohio, where she studied Comparative American Studies. After graduating, Zoe moved once again, this time, to Tlaxcala, Mexico, as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. Zoe remembers her time in Mexico fondly and is grateful to have had the opportunity to spend an extended amount of time in Mexico. She cites this experience as being of central importance in both her personal and professional development. 

On returning to Minnesota, Zoe worked as a domestic violence advocate at Casa de Esperanza in St. Paul. In this position, she worked with and supported youth survivors of domestic violence, many of whom had migrated to the U.S. from foreign countries. Zoe was continually inspired by the resilience of those with whom she worked, especially given the fact that she found that the experiences of these victims were met, in large part, with indifference by the systems with which these individuals interacted. 

Building upon this experience and her time in Mexico as a Fulbright recipient, Zoe decided to pursue work in Southern Mexico at a migrant shelter. Here, she did legal advocacy work with migrants that were seeking asylum in Mexico.  The experience opened Zoe’s eyes, once again, to the failings of human rights organizations in realizing their goals to help and advocate for people needing their assistance. These experiences and her frustrations with the apparent inadequacy of the work done by human rights organizations led Zoe, in part, to make the decision to further her education at the University of Minnesota in the MHR Program. 

 Zoe was drawn specifically to apply for and participate in the MHR Program because of its interdisciplinary approach to human rights education and the program’s strong connections to NGOs located in the Twin Cities and beyond. Zoe believes that the hands-on,interdisciplinary design of the program will allow her to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to be an effective human rights advocate.

Zoe is currently pursuing a concentration in migration and has taken advantage of the interdisciplinary nature of the program, having enrolled in a course at the Law School. In the future, Zoe hopes to use her education and experiences with human rights work and advocacy to meaningfully impact US immigration policy, combatting the systemic injustices that occur in our detention and deportation regime. She is specifically interested in advocacy work with nonprofit organizations.

Zoe has found her time with the MHR Program to be both enriching and challenging. Like many students, she has found the transition to online learning to be difficult, but is grateful to be studying with a group of diverse, supportive individuals whose experiences add richness to the program. In particular, Zoe appreciates the cohort style of the program, finding that working and studying with people across disciplines and backgrounds is part of what makes the program unique.