Student Highlight

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Trisha Mukherjee, a senior in Columbia College studying Human Rights with a specialization in English, was recently awarded one of the Office of University Life’s first Racial Justice Mini-Grants for her project “CU Against Racism: A Podcast Series Exploring Anti-Racist Efforts at Columbia.”  She was born and raised in New Jersey and is a proud daughter of Indian immigrant parents. She is interested in the intersections of immigration, storytelling, and decolonization. Outside of school, she loves to travel to new places, go on long bike rides, and write music. ISHR recently interviewed Trisha, to gain more insight about her experience in the program so far.

Why did you decide to pursue human rights for your academic and professional path?

My interest in human rights stemmed from hearing my grandmother's painful memories of the Partition of India in 1947, when she was displaced as a little girl. The events of 1947, fueled by colonialism and identity-based animosity, seemed far away in space and time when I first heard them from my grandma, but as I began to learn more, I quickly realized that the same forces are at work around the world today, resulting in a long list of human rights issues. I want to keep pursuing human rights to help take apart the flawed systems that have caused so much destruction for my grandma and many others like her. 
What are your research interests?
My main focus as of now is immigration, but I am also really interested in women's rights, cultural rights, the prison industrial complex, and decolonization. I'm fascinated by storytelling around human rights and am currently working on a podcast project that aims to decolonize narratives about human rights activism around the world. 
What are some ways for students to engage in human rights issues on campus based on your experience?
As Columbia students, we are lucky to be part of a school and a city that both have strong legacies of activism. On campus, students interested in human rights should get involved in the movements being led by current student organizations such as identity-based groups like BSO, UndoCU, and the Native American Council and advocacy-based groups like Amnesty and CUSHR (just to name a few). If you are really passionate about a certain human rights issue, you always have the opportunity to start your own club. Two of my friends and I started a student organization called Students For Sanctuary which mobilizes student volunteers to provide free assistance to undocumented New Yorkers, and it has been a great way for me and other students to do practical human rights work in addition to the theory we learn in class. Additionally, New York City is full of activist organizations that are looking for help. There are so many human rights issues in NYC itself that are easy to overlook as Columbia students-- the next-door gentrification of West Harlem, for example-- and getting involved with local community-based groups allows us to strengthen the movements they are leading. 
What advice would you give to those who are interested in majoring in human rights?
One of the best parts about the human rights major are the professors. Many of the human rights faculty have been pioneers in their fields and worked on cases that set important precedents for how we understand human rights. Get to know them and soak up their wisdom! Also, try to apply your knowledge and passion for human rights in the world around you; you will be well-positioned to create concrete change.