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University of Minnesota Human Rights Center
Human Rights Fellowship Program

Complete List of Past Fellows

2013 Fellows


Oualid Abid
Musulman-es Progressites de France (MPF)
Paris, France

Oualid received his Bachelor’s Degree in Public Law from Université Hassan II, in Casablanca, Morocco, and attended the University of Padova, Italy, to study political science. He is currently a law student at the University of Minnesota and has worked with various human rights organizations in the U.S. He is particularly interested in LGBT rights.

Oualid will use his Human Rights Fellowship award to work with the Musulman-es Progressistes de France (MPF). Through his research and advocacy with Les Musulman-es Progressistes de France, Oualid hopes to extend the voices of these courageous activists to the international community, and in particular, to the LGBT Muslims in Arab nations who suffer abuses of their human rights so routinely.


Rachel Blackhurst
Malawi Human Rights Resource Centre
Lilongwe, Malawi

Rachel Blackhurst is a second-year law student pursuing a human rights concentration at the University of Minnesota. Rachel earned her B.A. in Foreign Service and Political Science from Alma College in 2010. During her undergraduate studies, Rachel interned twice for the U.S. State Department, spending a semester supporting U.S. activities in the Security Council at United Nations headquarters in New York. After graduating, Rachel volunteered as a community development coordinator in a resettlement camp for internally displaced persons in rural Kenya. As a first-year law student, Rachel traveled to Tucson, Arizona, with the Asylum Law Project to assist in the preparation of visa petitions for victims of domestic violence. Rachel is currently a student practitioner in the Human Rights Litigation and International Advocacy Clinic.

Rachel is using her Human Rights Fellowship to work as an Assistant Program Officer for the Malawi Human Rights Resource Centre (MHRRC) in Lilongwe, Malawi. The MHRRC engages in advocacy and lobbying on several human rights themes, including gender-based violence, HIV and AIDS, the use of force by law enforcement, and civil and political rights. The MHRRC functions as a capacity-building organization for civil society in Malawi, providing training, research, coordination, and documentation services to grassroots organizations.


Katie Choi
Citizens’ Alliance for North Korea Human Rights (NKHR)
Seoul, South Korea

Katie Choi just completed her second year at the University of Minnesota Law School. She graduated cum laude from the University of California-Los Angeles, where she majored in Sociology. Prior to law school, she interned at Public Counsel’s Pro Per Guardianship Clinic in Los Angeles, California, where she provided assistance to low-income families in filing applications for probate guardianship. She has been working at the Children’s Law Center of Minnesota as a law clerk, where she assists staff and volunteer attorneys in their representation of children by conducting legal research and preparing interim case reviews and case summaries.

This summer, Katie’s Human Rights Fellowship will support her internship with the Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights (NKHR) in Seoul, South Korea. NKHR is a non-profit human rights organization focused on improving the situation of human rights in North Korea and providing assistance for North Korean refugees, with a focus on youth and children. The organization assists North Korean youths in adjusting to life and education in South Korea, as well as advocates for the rights of stateless children born to North Korean mothers and Chinese fathers. Katie will work on a variety of NKHR’s initiatives and projects, including organizing a grassroots campaign and planning NKHR’s annual charity concert in support of North Korean youths living in South Korea.


Bin Dai
Asia Catalyst
New York City, New York

Bin Dai is a second year law student at the University of Minnesota. She graduated from Fudan University in Shanghai, China.

This summer, Bin Dai will intern for Asia Catalyst in New York City. Asia Catalyst is a nonprofit organization that provides trainings in organizational management, documentation, and advocacy to grassroots groups in Asia working on health rights. Bin Dai will do legal research on Chinese, U.S., and international human rights law relating to disability rights and nondiscrimination. In addition, Bin Dai will conduct legal research and assist in drafting a report on administrative detention in China.


Alex Dyste
U.S. Department of the Interior
Bloomington, MN

Alex is a second year law student at the University of Minnesota Law School. During the 2012-2013 academic year, she served as the Secretary for the Asian-Pacific American Law Student Association, as a staff member on the Journal of Law & Inequality, and as an Admissions Ambassador for the Admissions Office. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Michigan State University in 2011. Alex is interested in strengthening indigenous rights; this past school year, she wrote her student article for the Journal of Law & Inequality on the Implications of the Affordable Care Act on the Indian Health Care Improvement Act. During her time in law school, she has clerked twice with the Minneapolis division of Legal Aid Society.

This summer, Alex will use her Human Rights Fellowship award to serve as an intern for the Department of the Interior (DOI), primarily working on litigation arising out of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Bureau of Indian Education. The Department of the Interior is the federal agency that works most closely with Native American individuals, governments, and organizations. Together with the BIA, the DOI is responsible for addressing a wide range of tribal needs. The DOI’s mission in this regard is to remedy the federal government’s past wrongdoings and give meaning to the treaty rights promised to U.S. tribes. Alex will perform research, draft briefs and motions, and participate in discovery.


Evan Gelles
Legal Rights Center
Minneapolis, MN

Evan just completed his first year as a law student at the University of Minnesota Law School. He graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a minor in Political Science. Prior to attending law school, Evan served as a civil rights intern at CAIR-Chicago (Council on American-Islamic Relations) and a law clerk at the Cook County State's Attorney's Office. He is an active member of the Muslim Law Student Association.

Evan is using his Human Rights Fellowship to work with the Legal Rights Center, a nonprofit poverty criminal defense law firm located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Legal Rights Center aims to assist populations most vulnerable to abuse in the criminal justice system. The organization provides pro bono legal assistance to low-income, disadvantaged populations. As a Fellow at the Legal Rights Center, Evan will work directly with clients and the court. He will conduct client intakes, perform legal research and writing, work on trial preparation, and may participate in trial proceedings.


Sanam Ghandehari
United Nations
New York, New York

Sanam Ghandehari is an LL.M student at the University of Minnesota Law School. She received her LL.B from Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran and completed a highly selective Masters of Law from Tehran University in 2007, a program from which only seven top students are granted degrees each year. After passing the bar exams, she was an Attorney at Law in the Iranian Central Bar Association where she worked for almost five years.

As a Human Rights Fellow, Sanam is interning with two international human rights organizations in 2013. First, she interned with the United Nations Headquarters in New York focusing on the UN’s internal justice system; the UN recently established a new internal justice system to establish a more harmonious and accountable working environment, which will improve the performance of UN human rights units wherever they work. Sanam is now interning with the International Institute of Minnesota, which assists over 1,000 refugees, asylees, and immigrants to navigate the complex processes of permanent residency, citizenship, and other immigration procedures.


Paulina Houston
Marin County Public Defender
San Rafael, California

Paulina Houston (“Lina”) just completed her second year at the University of Minnesota Law School. During her first year of law school, she volunteered as a legal rights intern with Breaking Free, an organization that helps women who have been victimized by sex trafficking and prostitution. She worked as a policy intern at the Minnesota Department of Human Services during her first summer, where she increased access to chemical dependency treatment programs for pregnant and parenting women. She has also clerked at the Neighborhood Justice Center, a nonprofit criminal defense office in St. Paul, which sparked her passion for criminal justice. Lina graduated from UCLA magna cum laude with a B.A. in African American Studies and a concentration in English. While at UCLA, she advocated for African American construction workers at the Black Worker Center in Los Angeles and studied Afro-Brazilian culture in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil.

This summer, Lina will use her Human Rights Fellowship award to clerk for the Marin County Public Defender in San Rafael, CA. She will be certified by the California State Bar to represent clients in court as a student attorney, and will likely appear on the daily calendar. The Marin County Public Defender is the only Bay Area public defender’s office that allows students to work on jury trials, and Lina hopes she will be able to work on one this summer. She will also conduct client interviews and jail visits, as well as be cleared to visit San Quentin State Prison.


Tisidra Jones
International Leadership Institute
Eldoret, Kenya

Tisidra graduated from the University of St. Thomas School of Law in 2012. During her time in law school, she served as a Legal Research Assistant, drafting and editing articles on mass incarceration in the United States. She also served as a Student Attorney for an arts-based civic engagement program. Tisidra holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music with a minor in Sociology from George Mason University.

During Summer 2013, Tisidra will serve as a Human Rights Fellow at the International Leadership Institute, a non-profit organization that focuses on improving the justice and education systems in host countries. Tisidra will primarily be working with youth in Kenya by applying an arts-based civic engagement model to raise awareness about human rights issues in nearby communities.

Nicole Kast
Centro Una Brisa de Esperanza
Cochabamba, Bolivia

Nicole is a first year graduate student in Community Health Promotion at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. After graduating from Swarthmore College with a degree in Sociology/Anthropology in 2008, Nicole lived in Oaxaca, Mexico, for four years where she collaborated with a number of community-based organizations. In 2009, she co-edited and published the book Lo Vimos Lo Vivimos: Narracciones en Movimiento, which features 20 short stories, poems, chronicles, and essays written by people of all ages who lived through the social movement in Oaxaca in 2006. Between 2010 and 2012, Nicole coordinated the early detection and prevention program for an organization working with the deaf community and led Theater of the Oppressed workshops for young indigenous girls at the local women’s center in Oaxaca. Currently, Nicole is a Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) Trainee at the Institute on Community Integration, as well as the research assistant for the Health Disparities Work Group at the School of Public Health. Nicole’s geographic focus is Latin America with a thematic interest in disability studies and intra-family violence.

Through her Human Rights Fellowship, Nicole will work with Centro Una Brisa de Esperanza (C.U.B.E.). This non-governmental organization focuses on the rights of children and adolescents to be protected from danger and works to improve the development of children’s well-being.


Anna Meteyer
Human Rights Program [MN-Colombia Project]
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Anna Meteyer is a third-year undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, pursuing a B.A. in Global Studies and Art, and minoring in Spanish. She currently works as a student assistant for the University of Minnesota Human Rights Program in the Institute for Global Studies, where she contributes to research, advocacy, and communications efforts. In Spring 2013, Anna interned with the Children’s Law Center, a small non-profit law firm in St. Paul, where she assisted in the advocacy and insurance of children’s rights within the foster care system through writing stories for the website, organizing case files, and developing promotion efforts. After graduating, Anna hopes to gain experience and develop her knowledge surrounding indigenous labor and land rights, particularly in the context of economic and sustainable development, through traveling to Central or South America and working with indigenous communities.

Anna will use her Human Rights Fellowship to work with the University of Minnesota Human Rights Program as part of its capacity-building partnership with several law schools in the Antioquia region of Colombia. In this position, she will serve as a liaison between the University of Minnesota human rights community and student populations at the Antioquia partner universities. She particularly hopes to establish a virtual student forum (via Skype) that connects human rights students in Minnesota to students in Colombia, creating a space for the exchange of innovative ideas and adding depth to the students’ understanding of the application of human rights advocacy and law in different cultural and political contexts. These forums will act as an informal “think-tank” of sorts, combining many different outlooks and creating an international community of leading human rights students.


Brittney Miller
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
Washington, D.C.

Brittney just completed her second year as a law student at the University of Minnesota. She graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in Politics and English from Drake University. As an undergraduate, Brittney worked for a small consumer rights law office in Des Moines, Iowa. It was there that she became interested in public interest legal work.

This summer, Brittney will be using her Human Rights Fellowship to work as a law clerk for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Washington, D.C. Relying on advocacy and impact litigation, the Lawyers’ Committee combats disparities in housing, education, the workplace, and the voting booth. Brittney has been placed with the organization’s Employment Discrimination Project. She will join the organization’s efforts to challenge discriminatory employment barriers and to open up access to opportunity.

Spencer Peck
Food and Agriculture Organization
Kigali, Rwanda

Spencer Peck attended the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, majored in Political Science and History, and played intercollegiate basketball. While attending the university, he began to work with at-risk and substance-dependent youth in therapeutic treatment settings. In August 2010, Mr. Peck and his wife moved to Meru, Kenya, to work as Program Liaisons between Kenya Methodist University, Meru University of Science and Technology, and the University of Michigan Medical School. His role was to help the Kenyan institutes build their educational and research capacity by partnering with the University of Michigan. After a year in Kenya, he enrolled in law school, pursuing concentrations in Environmental and International Law. He is also concurrently pursuing a Masters of Urban and Regional Planning at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Spencer’s ultimate career goal is to work to improve the livelihoods of those living in developing nations. Ideally, he wants to help African or Southeast Asian nations plan and develop their burgeoning urban centers in order to protect and enhance natural environments and resources.

Spencer’s Human Rights Fellowship will be with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Kigali, Rwanda. There, he will work on the Kagera Transboundary Agroecosystems Management Project. The overall goal of this project is to encourage the adoption of integrated ecosystem approaches for managing land resources in the Kagera Basin. As a Project Technical Assistant, he will help with several aspects of the project including: restoration of degraded lands, carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation, agro-biodiversity conservation, and sustainable use and improved agricultural production.


Angelica Ramirez
Transitional Justice Institute
Belfast, Northern Ireland

Angelica Ramirez has just completed her first year of Law School at the University of Minnesota. A native of Dallas, Texas, she is a graduate of Northland College in Wisconsin and was a 2010 McNair's Scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. She has been elected to serve as President of the Latino Law Student Association and the Vice President of the Indian Services Project-Greater Minnesota Committee for the 2013-14 academic year. Angelica is passionate about community involvement and bringing underrepresented voices into the fold.

For her Human Rights Fellowship, Angelica will work for the Transitional Justice Institute in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Institute is recognized as a leading center for the field of transitional justice, where scholars from Ireland, the United Kingdom, and other countries generate scholarship on the role of law and legal institutions in post-conflict situations. Angelica will be working to prepare materials for, as well as participate in, the Institute's program on "Peace Negotiations, Peace Mediation, and Influencing Implementation: Engaging Women and Gender." She will engage with women in Africa and the Middle East who are looking to increase their participation in the development of post-conflict governments in their home countries.

Thea Reilkoff
The Advocates for Human Rights [Women’s Human Rights Program]
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Thea Reilkoff is a student at the University of Minnesota Law School. She has a B.S. in Chemistry from Mayville State University and an M.S. in Environmental Science and Engineering from the Oregon Graduate Institute of Science and Technology. Prior to law school, Thea served as the Director of External Relations for the Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science. Before that, she worked as a research engineer at the Energy & Environmental Research Center in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Thea has a long history of political and community involvement, which motivated her to obtain a law degree with a concentration in human rights. For many years, Thea has had an interest in business and human rights, particularly the impact that multinational corporations and business entities have on women and children. Her focus has been on international trade and investment, as well as corporate transparency.

In Summer 2013, Thea will intern with the Women’s Human Rights Program at the Advocates for Human Rights. In January 2013, a team from the Advocates traveled to Mongolia for the first of two fact-finding missions to assess the Mongolian government’s efforts to protect victims of domestic violence. Thea will be responsible for reviewing and identifying key information from interviews conducted during the Advocates’ fact-finding mission and will assist in preparing the final report. In addition, she will provide substantive updates to the Stop Violence Against Women website, including country reports and news items. She will also have the opportunity to develop new content for the site.


Gada Roba
International Organization on Migration/U.S. Resettlement Support Center
Nairobi, Kenya

Gada Roba is an Oromo-American, originally a refugee from Ethiopia who came to Minnesota in 1999. He graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2009 with a double major in Global Studies and Political Science and a minor in African Studies. During his time at the University of Minnesota, Gada traveled extensively to develop his leadership skills in the U.S. and abroad, studying international development and human rights in Kenya and Tanzania, attending international conferences in Morocco and South Africa, and traveling through the southern U.S. to study the civil rights movement. During his time in Kenya, Gada interned with the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights where he was involved in documentation and investigation of post election violence in 2007/8. After graduating from the University, Gada has held key leadership roles in Minnesota-based Oromo organizations and worked as a bilingual Associate Educator in Minneapolis schools. He was also a Humphrey Policy Fellow in 2012-2013.

During the summer of 2013, Gada will use his Human Rights Fellowship award in conjunction with the Hawkinson Scholarship award to work with the International Organization on Migration and the U.S. Resettlement Support Center in Nairobi, Kenya. Gada will support those organizations as they serve refugees seeking resettlement in the United States and Canada.


Ethan Scrivner
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
The Hague, Netherlands

Ethan Scrivner completed his first year of Law School in May 2013. Prior to enrolling at the University of Minnesota Law School, he served as a Senior Peer Mentor with the CLEAN Program at the College of St. Scholastica, assisting students recovering from substance abuse and carrying out research to raise awareness of the program. He also served as an English as a Second Language instructor in Finland during the summer of 2012. He holds a B.A. in International Studies and Journalism, summa cum laude, from the College of St. Scholastica. Ethan has traveled and studied extensively abroad, including for an independent research project in Hyderabad, India.

Ethan was inspired to seek an internship with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia by a trip he took through the former Yugoslavia, where he saw the legacy of the ethnic violence of the 1990s firsthand. For his Human Rights Fellowship, he will be serving in the Communications Section of the Tribunal, an experience which he hopes will expand his capacity to apply his legal education to the prevention of ethnic violence and genocide.


Kirsten Selvig
London, England

Kirsten graduated with a B.A. in History from the University of South Carolina. During her time as an undergraduate, she spent a year studying in France and England; in the fall, Kirsten studied at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris and in the spring, she went to Leeds University in England. She has just completed her second year at the University of Minnesota Law School, pursuing a criminal justice track with a human rights focus. Last summer, Kirsten worked with the U.S. Navy JAG Corps in San Diego, CA, and she hopes to become a Navy JAG after graduating from Law School.

This summer, Kirsten will be working with REDRESS in London. REDRESS is an anti-torture NGO that assists survivors of torture to find justice. Through casework and research, REDRESS seeks to hold the perpetrators of torture accountable for their actions through national courts and international institutions. REDRESS also conducts extensive research on various issues related to torture. The organization has a global scope, but also works with individual clients in local communities.

Sarah Super
Justice Resource Institute, Trauma Center
Brookline, Massachusetts

Sarah Super is a graduate student at the University of Minnesota completing an interdisciplinary Masters degree program focusing on yoga and human rights. While earning her B.A. magna cum laude in Sociology and American Studies from the University of Minnesota, Sarah became a yoga instructor. Since then, her study of justice and her passion for yoga have propelled her to work with many ages, bodies, and abilities with the intention of serving the marginalized and facilitating wellness and peace within.

Sarah will complete her Human Rights Fellowship with the Trauma Center at the Justice Resource Institute in Brookline, Massachusetts. There, she will work under the Director of Yoga Services to build a curriculum in trauma-sensitive yoga. Sarah intends to bring this trauma-informed yoga into the human rights community as a tool to heal victims of torture and other human rights abuses, as well as protect advocates from secondary trauma in their daily work.


Ariel Tazkargy
Center for Reproductive Rights Global Legal Program
New York, New York

Ariel Tazkargy is a rising third-year student at the University of Minnesota Law School. She graduated with highest distinction and honors from the University of Kansas in 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. During her time in law school, Ariel has volunteered at Peace and Hope International's Walk-In Legal Clinic and will be the Executive Editor of Volume 32 of Law and Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice. She has worked for the Advocates for Human Rights’ International Justice Program, where she helped create and organize resources for diaspora communities in the United States that would allow them to advocate for human rights in their home countries. Ariel also clerked for the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Minnesota, researching and writing on the enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

This summer, Ariel will use her Human Rights Fellowship to intern with the Global Legal Program at the Center for Reproductive Rights, located in New York City. Ariel will have the opportunity to research and write submissions to the United Nations and regional human rights bodies, conduct general legal and policy research on international law, human rights law, and foreign and comparative law. She will also help to prepare advocacy materials for use in regional and international human rights enforcement bodies.

Shuangqi (Joy) Wang

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR)
Arusha, Tanzania

Shuangqi Wang is a University of Minnesota Law Student who graduated from Denison University in 2012 with a B.A. in Sociology/Anthropology. While earning her degree, Shuangqi acquired a strong interest in issues of human rights, including not only civil and political rights, but also social, economic and cultural rights, as well as collective rights. The fact that people from different cultures conceptualize and understand human rights differently fascinates Shuangqi; she believes that intercultural communication is crucial in developing a human rights concept that is sensitive to all cultures. Shuangqi also volunteers at the Public Health Law Center, conducting comparative research on international tobacco control.

As a Human Rights Fellow, Shuangqi will travel to Arusha, Tanzania, to provide legal assistance to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, an ad hoc tribunal created by the United Nations Security Council to address the serious human rights violations committed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. In this role, Shuangqi will contribute to the ICTR’s work on maintaining peace and facilitating national rehabilitation in Rwanda.

Grace Zaiman

Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid
Minneapolis, MN

Grace Zaiman is a recent graduate of William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, MN. As a law student, Grace spent four semesters in the Immigration Law Clinic where she worked on cases involving gender-based asylum, adjustment of status, and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. As part of the Clinic, Grace was involved in the Minnesota Detention Project, where she represented detainees in removal proceedings. While in law school, Grace also clerked for the Immigration Law Project at Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid and served as the Minnesota Justice Foundation’s pro bono law clerk in the Immigration Department at Fredrikson & Byron. Prior to attending William Mitchell, Grace received a B.A. in Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN, and an M.A. from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

Grace is using her Human Rights Fellowship to continue her work with Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid. Grace will be conducting legal research into immigrant and human rights issues, including humanitarian asylum and deportation defense.

Umar Zulqarnain
Childhope Asia
Manila, Philippines

Umar Zulqarnain just completed his first year at the University of Minnesota Law School. He obtained a Bachelor of Commerce in Economics and Management Science from Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada.

As a Human Rights Fellow, Umar will travel to Manila, Philippines, to work with Childhope Asia. Umar's work will focus on the organization's efforts to rescue child victims of human trafficking. Umar will prepare advocacy materials and activities to help stop and prevent child trafficking. He will also participate in developing awareness campaigns on the issues of children’s rights, child protection, and child abuse. Additionally, he will assist in the documentation and preparation of articles highlighting the success stories of street children who were able to overcome their adversities as a result of the support provided to them by Childhope and its donor partners.



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