HRSA and the Importance of Peer Community Building

Explore the importance of community building in student activism with HRSA Co-President Angela Kunkel

The Human Rights Student Association (HRSA) was founded at the U to build a community of undergraduate human rights defenders with a mission to learn new techniques in human rights advocacy. The club works with the university and community alike to foster a sense of collective commitment to human rights work, as well as to better understand what university students can do to uplift voices of community activists. To learn more about the importance of this activism space for our undergraduate students, we spoke to the co-presidents of the club Daniela and Angela Kunkel. In the second part of this series, we spoke with Angela on the importance of encouragement, community building, and collective healing for student activists together as one team through HRSA. 

Human Right Program (HRP): When did you decide to join HRSA? What kept you coming back?

AK: I decided to join HRSA after coming to the club events last year. I really loved the topics of the events, and the discussions that came from them. However, what really sold me on choosing to expand my role within HRSA was meeting and building relationships with the wonderful HRSA community.

HRP: How do you approach your role as a co-president of HRSA?

AK: I try my best to view my role as an encouraging “hype” person or supportive friend to those around me. Social justice organizing, in many ways, is an extremely difficult task. I think it’s important to build up the people around us while doing this work.

HRP: What have you gained from your time on the HRSA board? 

AK: I have gained a lot of experience on how to foster relationships in order to build community. I have learned a lot through communication failures, event successes and everything that comes in between. It’s something that I believe all members of the club will carry with us in future endeavors. 

HRP: Why do you think that social justice focused, student-led organizations like HRSA are important on the UMN campus? 

AK: Social justice centered events are critical to building on to community conversations and work. It’s extremely important for community healing, both for our students and community members. To be frank, I think students are living in a time where there is an especially visible light on the white-supremicist violence that fills our streets, our books and our education. At HRSA, we are cultivating a space for the university community to be grounded in larger callings of justice.

HRP: What are your hopes for HRSA going forward? 

AK: I hope we can continue to build partnerships and relationships with activists and community organizers. I really want our university community to grow through new ideas and perspectives. I also hope we can build an even stronger coalition of human rights students moving forward. 

HRP: How do you plan on working within the realm of human rights in the future?

AK: I think youth centered community organizing and support is critical to building the future we collectively dream of. Whether as a career or as my life passion, I plan on continuing to uplift youth voices in their communities.

Angela Kunkel

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