Interdisciplinary Human Rights Certificate Program Inspires Forward Thinking Students

Four students share their insights 

Hayden, Abdullah, Nona and KianaBy Leslie L.J. Reilly

Hayden Pearce

Senior | Political Science major | Women’s Studies and Leadership minors

As her last semester approaches, Hayden Pearce has much to think about and many opportunities to pursue. One area in which she has a steadfast commitment, though, is human rights. Her first foray into the subject was in professor Grace Cheng’s Human Rights in a Global Perspective (POL-S 380) course. Pearce became passionate about human rights when she noticed a common theme running through many of her political science and women’s studies courses.

When Cheng introduced the Certificate in Human Rights program in spring 2020, Pearce knew it was the right program for her — it would allow her to learn as much as she could about the subject. Some of the courses she was already enrolled in were certificate electives, so it was an easy decision to add a few more courses to earn the certificate, which requires a total of 15 units.

Pearce enrolled in Women’s Roles in Conflict and Gender War and Peace (WS 570) and asked Cheng to add it to the certificate program since the subject is precisely aligned with human rights.

Cheng said, “This course adds yet another dimension to the already powerful curriculum of the certificate program. Topics that address historical and contemporary human rights issues provide students with a valuable range of interdisciplinary perspectives.”

Another course that Pearce felt fully engaged in was Food Justice (GEOG 440/POL-S 440) with lecturer James Murren. The course explores theoretical perspectives of institutions, markets, law, ethics, social mobilization, politics, and ecology along with subjects covering political strategies involved in food justice organizations, and movements aimed at creating fair, healthy, sustainable food systems locally and globally.

In one of Cheng’s courses, the discussion of a controversial topic and the surrounding cultural sensitivity about it, “really piqued my interest in human rights work and made me realize that I have a lot to learn — and I need to learn more,” Pearce said.

After graduation, Pearce is contemplating law school or fighting for human rights in organizations that work with political leaders.

Abdullah Al Anjari

Senior | Political Science major | History minor

As a child growing up in Kuwait, Abdullah Al Anjari watched his father, the chairman of a humanitarian organization, provide aid to people heavily impacted by war. “I have always been interested in human rights and humanitarianism.” Al Anjari said. 

Al Anjari enrolled in the certificate program with the aspiration of working for a human rights organization in the future. “This certificate will be a valuable addition to my bachelor’s degree,” he said.

One course that Al Anjari thoroughly enjoyed was the History of Human Rights. Fascinating subjects like human rights in the colonial era, human rights in U.S. foreign policy, and other thought-provoking topics were introduced. “I was inspired by all topics covered throughout the class,” Al Anjari said.

Al Anjari said, “I recommend this certificate to others for several reasons. Firstly, it would be a valuable addition to any student’s bachelor's degree. Plus, it is open for students from all majors, not only to students of political science. Lastly, the subjects I have studied for the certificate so far are fascinating and compelling!”

Nona Saber

Senior | Political Science and ISCOR double major 

Nona Saber has had a passion for human rights throughout her years studying at SDSU. “I knew that this certificate could elevate me in my future endeavors and open up more opportunities to me within the realm of human rights,” Saber said.

Upon completion of her internship with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in El Cajon, she realized she was passionate about issues surrounding refugees and asylum seekers. She began taking courses that reflect immigration and citizenship policies. 

“After taking Immigration and Border Politics, I have a better understanding of the issues faced by immigrant populations,” Saber said. “Another topic I have enjoyed learning about is global resistance.”

Saber recommends the certificate program to anyone interested in learning about global issues affecting different social groups. She said, “This certificate program allows you to explore multiple disciplines, so even if human rights is not related to your major, you can still enjoy learning about different subjects in history, geography, African American studies, LGBTQ+ studies, or another subject that interests you.” 

She added, “By taking the courses required for the program, you will broaden your knowledge of human rights issues, which affect people all around the world. No matter what your career goals are, it will be beneficial to have an understanding of current or past events affecting humans. It is also important to have a basic understanding of the policies outlined in international treaties like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Kiana Hunter

Senior | Political Science major

Kiana Hunter is planning to enter law school after graduation. “I found it necessary to take human rights classes to not only have the knowledge of laws and how a democracy works, but to also gain more insight on how these laws affect people,” she said. Understanding the issues will help inform her as she plans to help those suffering from diminishing human rights in her future career. 

Hunter said, “I am passionate about making a change for those less fortunate and my goal with this certificate is to gain background knowledge on the problems with human rights in various countries — to ensure that I am able to help in the most efficient way possible.” 

“Learning about human rights is an important step to becoming a great law student,” Hunter said.  She hopes that using her position on both sides of the law will ensure that citizens worldwide are getting what they need.

Hunter believes that the courses in the human rights certificate program have helped her with understanding global cultures and issues. The topics presented in the required course Human Rights in a Global Perspective (POL-S 380) have helped shape her vision and inspired her to teach others that “not every culture has the same ideology and that it is not okay for a culture to force its beliefs on another.”

“This course of study has helped me become a more understanding person to others' beliefs and to see each side of a right rather than just seeing a western view that we have always been taught is the only way,” Hunter added.


To learn more, visit: Certificate in Human Rights.