Program Welcomes New Staff

Picture of Human Rights Program staff standing in front of a white board.

(pictured, l to r) Rochelle Hammer, Barbara Frey, Mahad Omar, Hayley Drozdowski, Kate Denney, Maria Terra, Brittany Becker, Amelia Shindelar, Olga Salazar Pozos, and Hunter Johnson

The Human Rights Program has welcomed several new staff members this academic year. Our staff brings a rich diversity of skills, experience, knowledge, interests, and backgrounds that make the Program an engaging, welcoming, active, and great place to work. In the coming months, we plan to share many updates about our work and the broader human rights scholarship, teaching and outreach at the University of Minnesota. Meet the team currently working with Director Barbara Frey, Coordinator Rochelle Hammer, and MHR/HRI Coordinator Amelia Shindelar.

  • Brittany Becker is a senior majoring in Global Studies with an emphasis on Human Rights and Justice and Latin America. She is passionate about the intersections of inequalities in the U.S., the impacts of policing and potential solutions, and transitional justice mechanisms. After graduation, she plans to take time off to run a marathon, travel, and work before applying for graduate school. Brittany is part of the Program's research team, The Observatory on Disappearances and Impunity in Mexico. 
  • Kate Denney is a senior pursuing majors in Spanish Studies and in Global Studies, with a concentration in Human Rights and Justice and Latin America. She is interested in issues surrounding immigration and refugee resettlement/support and has also worked with the issue of homelessness within Minneapolis. Kate finds interest in the ways that social, cultural, and legal influences shape how human rights are realized for different groups of people on a local, national, and international level. After graduation, she plans to work in human rights advocacy either through obtaining a law degree or through social work. Kate is in her second year working on the Communications Team for the Program and is also contributing to research initiatives.
  • Hayley Drozdowksi is a second year graduate student pursuing a Master of Human Rights degree. Her concentrations include Forced Migration and Trauma, with her main interests being third country refugee resettlement and migrant incarceration. After obtaining her degree, Hayley hopes to pursue a role focusing on bolstering third country resettlement initiatives with an advocacy NGO or in the public sector. Hayley currently serves as Communications Coordinator for Program.
  • Hunter Johnson is a documentary filmmaker and photographer who has worked as a professional freelancer for the past eight years. He graduated from Temple University and is now a first year Master of Human Rights student with a concentration in Arts Advocacy. Hunter seeks to apply an academic foundation and deeper understanding of human rights issues and solutions to his filmmaking in order to be both a better advocate and storyteller. He lived in Honduras for two years and continues to travel to Latin America often to produce various projects for several NGOs. Hunter is working with Barbara Frey as a researcher on The Observatory on Disappearances and Impunity in Mexico and developing communications for The Minnesota Model.
  • Mahad Omar is a third year student in Global Studies with a focus on Human Rights and Justice and the Middle East and North/Central Africa. Mahad is the current president of a student group that he helped cofound two years ago, Multicultural and First Generation College Students. He hopes to work in the realm of international human rights, whether through the United Nations or international NGOs, as a strong advocate against ethnic and religious violations of human rights. Mahad  is working on the Program's Communications Team and also contributes to research initiatives.
  • Olga Salazar Pozos was was born in Mexico. She is a student of the Ph. D. in Hispanic and Lusophone Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics at the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. Before pursuing a doctorate, Olga graduated as top of her program in Hispanic Literature and Language at the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey. While studying as an undergraduate in Mexico, she received a national award for a literary essay and participated in literature and linguistics research programs with several institutions including Tecnológico de Monterrey and the Academia Mexicana de las Ciencias. Her current research focuses on the representation of violence in Contemporary Mexican Literature. Olga is also working with Barbara Frey as a researcher on the Observatory on Disappearances and Impunity in Mexico.
  • Maria Ignacia Terra Figueroa is Chilean, a recent graduate of the Master of Human Rights degree program, and a Fulbright Scholar. She received her undergraduate degree from Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile and pursued a Master's degree in Political Science at the same institution. While in Chile, Maria worked on a transitional justice observatory for human rights violations occurring during the Chilean dictatorship. While pursuing her MHR at the University of Minnesota, she worked as a research assistant on The Observatory on Disappearances and Impunity in Mexico. After graduating, Maria rejoined the team and is currently managing the project, working closely with Barbara Frey and a diverse interdisicplinary team of 10 graduate and undergraduate student researchers.

The team is working hard to:

  • document media reports of disappearances in Mexico and identify advocacy strategies for addressing widespread impunity;
  • support interdisciplinary engaged research and teaching of our faculty through their Human Rights Initiative projects;
  • promote "The Minnesota Model," a unique multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary initiative supported by a Grand Challenges Research Interdisciplinary Team Award, bringing together faculty and graduate student researchers with human rights partners in the field to advance human rights and address the recent backsliding in protection of rights around the world;
  • profile undergraduate, graduate and professional students who are out in the field applying their research and advocacy skills gained in the classroom to real-time human rights issues;
  • connect with our human rights alumni to bring you stories of how their coursework and field experience as students impacted their current professional paths; and
  • raise awareness of critical human rights issues thru event programming, outreach to the broader community, and much more! 

Remember to check out our website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for stories and updates regarding our work!

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