On April 28, 2022, seven U-M students graduated from the Program in Comparative Studies and officially became the first Donia Human Rights Fellows.
The seven are Hailey Hoffman, Faith Williams, Nicole Lin, Clarisa Moreno-Middleberg, Alexandra Hana Kantor, Devashree Patel, and Cathryn Wolak.
After the festivities died down, the Fellows sat down with us to reflect on their experience, including program highlights and advice for students thinking about participating in the program.
This past academic year, the Donia Human Rights Center (DHRC) hosted and co-sponsored nine public events that afforded future Fellows an opportunity to interact with accomplished human rights practitioners.
The DHRC’s Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture, featured Dr. Makau Mutua, the SUNY Distinguished Professor at the University at Buffalo Law School. Professor Mutua lectured on “The Promise-and Failure-of Human Rights.” Fellow Cathryn Wolak, who hails from New Providence, New Jersey, remarked, “It was helpful to look back to years past and see how far we've come and how much work we still have to do as a country and across the globe.”
In February, the DHRC hosted a Fellows-only career conversation with Ambassador Susan D. Page, Professor of Practice in International Diplomacy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and Professor of Practice at the Law School. The meeting with Page visit was a notable highlight for many Fellows. “Ambassador Page discussed how varied fields can incorporate human rights efforts. This helped me because even though I’m not going into a traditional human rights career, I can still contribute to this field,” reflected Clarisa Moreno-Middleberg, who will be entering U-M’s Master of Management program in the fall.
Synthesizing the connection between her academic coursework and Page’s advice, Alexandra Kantor noted “This event helped me internalize all of the information I had learned in my human rights courses over the past four years and how I can apply my knowledge in my future career.” Kantor, from South Salem, New York, will shortly begin work as a Client Protection Associate at AlphaSights in New York City.
Human Rights Center Coursework
In tandem with DHRC events, human rights coursework transformed Fellows’ perspectives and equipped them with the knowledge to navigate their future in the field.
- Refugees of Unjust Worlds, with Professor Amal Hassan Fadlalla, gave Cathryn Wolak a new lens through which to view human rights. “It gave me a deeper understanding of the worldview of refugees. I came to appreciate that when a refugee flees their country, their fight for more comprehensive rights has often just begun -- it will continue wherever they go.”
- Nicole Lin of Grand Rapids, Michigan, shared that the course Human Rights laid a critical foundation for her human rights education. “It was my first exposure to human rights and what it truly means. . . . [T]o learn about the technical aspects of human rights and what it actually entails is really insightful. It made me think critically of human rights and think about it more than in a broad way.” Nicole hopes to apply her knowledge working in Washington, D.C.
- Kantor was particularly influenced by Humanitarian Dilemmas, taught by Professor Greta Uehling. “Dr. Uehling's class showed me that the knowledge I had could be applied in a future career and that the things I had learned would help me make a difference in the world.”
- Moreno-Middleberg’s enrollment in Special Topics in Gender in a Global Context: Sexual Violence and the State, with Professor Debotri Dhar, helped her “understand how human rights norms have failed to truly protect people, especially women, from sexual violence.”
We asked our new alumni to share a piece of advice for future participants in the Fellows program – students who are where they were a few years ago, either trying to decide if the Fellows program is a good fit for them, or already committed and wanting to get the most out of it.
“Take advantage of all the resources given to you and read the emails that are sent out! You never know what opportunities you might find.”
“I would advise future participants to go to as many events as possible. They’re interesting and great learning opportunities.”
“To future program participants, I would highly recommend attending as many events as possible. I loved attending and listening to the multiple lecture events offered throughout the year and learning from professionals at the top of their fields."
“Network and take advantage of the advantages that come with being a fellow! Be open to learning.”
The Donia Human Rights Center is proud of the hard work and dedication of its inaugural fellows. Combining their unique talents and academic skill set, these fellows will undoubtedly contribute to the field of human rights.