Jolena Zabel—2014 Fellow

Jolena Zabel

Year: Class of 2016
Major: Political Science and International Studies, HRH concentration
the Human Rights Center at the U of M Law School

When Chuck Green (“the Man Himself”, as we called him) visited our cohort this spring, he reminded us that “age is just a number,” and we should never doubt that we have unique and compelling ideas worthy of contribution. Though I did not know it at the time, his advice would be invaluable during my fellowship at the Human Rights Center. Located in the University of Minnesota Law School, the Human Rights Center works to promote human rights in a variety of forms, from courses at the Law School to hosting annually a group of Humphrey Fellows from the U.S. Department of State.

I worked on several different projects throughout the summer, all related to human rights education. The first of these was assisting in the publication of a compilation of chapters written by human rights educators from around the world. I helped translate documents and emails, correspond with authors, and prepare legal documents surrounding copyrights and publication agreements.

Secondly, I wrote a position statement for submission by the Human Rights Education USA organization to the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS). If and when it is adopted, NCSS will be formally supporting and encouraging the inclusion of human rights education and humanitarian law into standard social studies curriculum.

My third and last project was helping to prepare a human rights­based and Minnesota­centered three week course for the incoming group of Humphrey Fellows. I worked with the Assistant Director of the program to create a syllabus filled with speakers, trainings, and site visits that would both introduce the fellows to their new home in the Twin Cities as well as provide space and subject matter for in depth discussions on a variety of human rights topics.

My time at the Human Rights Center was challenging, educational, and extremely positive. I found myself surrounded by a new set of role models and champions of human rights. Most importantly, however, I also discovered my own value. Though I often felt inexperienced, I learned hands­on the lesson Chuck Green imparted so many months earlier; that I can make valuable contributions, that my ideals are worthwhile, and that so much is possible outside of my comfort zone.