Columbia Alumni Reflect on HRAP: Victor Jandres Rivera

Friday, April 19, 2024

In honor of HRAP’s 35th anniversary, ISHR asked Columbia alumni to reflect on their experience with HRAP. Victor Jandres Rivera, who graduated from Columbia in May 2024, wrote about serving as the most recent HRAP program coordinator. 

I applied to become a Human Rights Advocates Program Assistant during my junior year of undergrad. As a human rights and ethnicity and race studies double major, I jumped at the opportunity to engage with the human rights activists that the Institute for the Study of Human Rights (ISHR) invites from around the world. Now that I am one month away from graduating, I am happy I made that leap and applied to work with Stephanie Grepo on HRAP. The past two years working for HRAP have been informative and inspiring beyond what I could’ve imagined when I decided to work for ISHR. My work has allowed me to engage with human rights activists fighting for LGBTQ+ rights in Brazil, women’s rights in Kenya, racial justice and civil rights in the Dominican Republic, disability rights in Nepal, and numerous other human rights efforts across the globe. My human rights courses have taught me about human rights mechanisms and theories, but my work with HRAP has exposed me to countless intersectional and grass-roots human rights initiatives that have inspired me to continue pursuing human rights work. 
Working one-on-one with the advocates has been an invaluable experience, and I have felt immensely privileged to have had the opportunity to meet each and every one of the HRAP members these past two years. I’ve learned what it means to be a human rights defender and the importance of coalition-building and fighting to forge a better future where human rights are universally respected across the world. Next year, I will attend Yale Law School in pursuit of becoming a lawyer and hope to continue advocating for human rights after my time at Columbia comes to an end.