Launched in 2021 the Donia Human Rights Fellows program is an initiative that recognizes University of Michigan undergraduate students majoring in International Studies (IS) who have demonstrated their interest in and commitment to the study and practice of human rights during their time at Michigan. Since then 15 IS Majors have graduated with the Donia Human Rights Fellow distinction. These students have proven their dedication to the study of human rights through their attendance at Donia Human Rights Center lectures, successful completion of human rights coursework, and enrollment in the Donia Human Rights Fellows Practicum.

The Donia Human Rights Center (DHRC) sat down with three of our returning fellows to discuss program highlights.

During the past academic year fellows were granted the unique opportunity to engage directly with human rights practitioners at DHRC hosted public events.

“It was one of the many opportunities I have had to learn about how different people find themselves in the human rights space, and hearing about Nderitu's background in Kenya was incredibly fascinating,” says DHRC Fellow Nina Naffzinger, who attended the Martin Luther King Jr. lecture “Racial Injustice: Global Challenges and Opportunities for the Prevention of Genocide,”  with Alice Wairimu Nderitu, Under-Secretary General of the United Nations and Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide. Prior to the event, DHRC Fellows had the opportunity to meet with Nderitu as a group during a luncheon. Unlike the lecture, a formal event for the general UM public, the luncheon served as a casual space for more personal discussion. “It was… very cool to hear from Nderitu about her learning recommendations and books that she would recommend for students or anyone interested in the human rights field,” Naffzinger explains.

DHRC Fellow Madeline Grobelny attended DHRC panel “The 2023 Elections and the Future of Human Rights and Democracy in Nigeria” on Nigeria’s democratic future.

“This discussion allowed me to apply my knowledge on human rights to current events in a specific area of the world, something that rarely happens in university classes,” Madeline noted.

On the DHRC Lecture,  “The Israeli Third Republic - Netanyahunism as a New Phase in Israeli Civil Rights and Politics,” fellow Charlotte Dubin said, “It was a particularly valuable event for me not only because it was led, as usual, by experts on the topic, but specifically because those experts had disagreements between each other at certain points in the panel.”

The fellows also completed the courses work and in many highlights they singled out several courses such as:  “Terrorism, Torture, and Violence,” with Professor Fatma Gocek informed Nina Naffziger’s understanding of gender based violence. “The course heavily informed my research interest on gender-based violence in prisons and was extremely fascinating,” says Naffziger. “Professor Gocek did an excellent job of weaving the three topics together and we had lots of interesting guest speakers as well.” “The History and Practice of Human Rights,” with Professor Melanie Tanielian provided Madelyn Grobelny with a hands-on learning experience in her study of human rights.”This class was extremely interesting as we got to study human rights in various regions of the world,” says Grobelny. “This class was very interactive, and we frequently did group projects, debates, and trial simulations in our discussion section which made the course fun and hands-on!” The Donia Human Rights Fellows Practicum with Lara Finkbeiner helped Charlotte Dubin explore different opportunities within the field of human rights. “Although it was a mini-course, it covered so much material that both explained human rights topics and exemplified the diversity of careers in human rights,” says Dubin. “We got to hear from some really interesting professionals as well as engage in conversation in a small and focused class environment, and I just really enjoyed the course overall.“

To learn more about the program go to Donia Human Rights Fellows program. For questions email