Claire Choi shares her experience as an Undergraduate Human Rights Major student so far.
What is your research focus? What drew you to this particular issue/set of issues?
My main research focus over the years has been children’s human rights. I have always loved working with children, which began while mentoring at low-income elementary schools in DC and New York. Since then, I have explored children’s rights in a number of capacities, including assisting attorneys at a legal organization representing unaccompanied immigrant children and engaging in policy research about child welfare, youth justice system involvement, and education. I also am writing my senior thesis about disproportionate child welfare involvement among families of color in New York, and the implications for children’s education.
Which class would you recommend to other students interested in the same issues as you?
Children’s Rights Advocacy with Professors Jo Becker and Michael Bochenek; International Human Rights Law with Professor Belinda Cooper; and Comparative Study of Constitutional Challenges Affecting African, Latino, and Asian American Communities with Professor Elizabeth OuYang. All taught by some of the most amazing professors you will meet at Columbia.
What is a must-read for a human rights student?
Campaigning for Children: Strategies for Advancing Children's Rights by Jo Becker and Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare by Dorothy Roberts.
Can you describe any volunteer or extracurricular activities that you have been a part of during your time at Columbia and how this experience has impacted you?
I volunteer with a tutoring group on campus and am involved with the undergraduate law review. I’m currently also a fellow with the Jailhouse Lawyers Manual at the Columbia Human Rights Law Review, and a research assistant at NYU Steinhardt and the Columbia Justice Lab. I’m very grateful to ISHR for making many of my experiences possible!
What has been your favorite moment in the program so far?
My favorite moment in the program was taking International Human Rights Law with Professor Belinda Cooper. My class only had five other students, many of whom had engaged in human rights work on the ground in countries around the world. I learned as much from my peers' experiences as the course material itself.
What are your goals (professional or academic) after graduation? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I hope to teach for several years after graduation, and after, pursue a degree in Education Policy or a law degree to equip me with the skills with which to advocate for children. Ultimately, I hope to represent children in legal proceedings, serving domestic violence survivors, or refugee children through direct service.
What is your favorite spot to study (or spend time) on campus?
I love working at the Joe Coffee in Pulitzer Hall in the mornings, particularly when the sun comes in through the main windows. When it’s warm out, I also enjoy reading on Low Steps.
What is one thing that your peers would never guess about you or might find surprising?
I only drink black coffee.
What is your hometown/area famous for?
The White House!
If you were to start a bookclub, which book would be first on your list? Why?
If I were ever to not pursue a career in human rights, my other secret dream job would be to run my own bookstore-coffee shop. I love Yu and Me Books in Chinatown, which predominantly features Asian American authors and authors of color. My favorite books are Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami.
Anything else you wish to share about yourself or your experience in the program/Columbia so far?
I have had such a wonderful experience during my time at Columbia and am grateful to every professor I have had over the past several years. They have been tremendously formative in my career as a human rights student and inspire me every day to become a deeper learner, more thoughtful and compassionate person, and devoted advocate of human rights.