Winston Ardoin (he/him) shares his experience as a student in the Human Rights Studies M.A. Program so far.
In which program are you enrolled and when is your expected graduation date?
MA in Human Rights Studies, Dec '22
What is your research focus in the HRSMA program?
My focus is Memory, Justice, and Redress for Past Wrongs. Many of my classes and much of my research interest revolves around topics such as transitional justice, historical memory, reparative justice, and reconciliation in (post-)colonial, (post-)conflict, and (post-)dictatorial societies. In my undergraduate courses, I was often interested in the way historical legacies continued to affect current political, social, and economic trends. Especially with regards to political and legal systems, I wanted to continue my education in order to study how properly historicizing and responding to the past might lead to better human rights protections and institutions on a global scale.
Which class would you recommend to other students interested in the same issues as you?
I would recommend the Transitional Justice seminar at Columbia Law or Righting Wrongs with Dr. David Scott.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up along the bayou in Thibodaux, Louisiana. I lived in Washington, DC, during my undergraduate studies and have briefly lived in Quito, Ecuador; Medellín, Colombia; and Stellenbosch, South Africa, to study and intern.
What is a must-read for a human rights student?
For those who share my particular interests, I recommend Wretched of the Earth by Fanon, Discourse on Colonialism by Césaire, and Citizen and Subject by Columbia professor Mahmood Mamdani.
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 hold a student job on campus with the Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability, am the treasurer of the Human Rights Graduate Group, and the Social Media Manager of RightsViews, the ISHR's student-run blog. All of these positions have allowed me to explore my interests outside of the classroom and learn about how I can use my academic interests in future careers! By engaging with other students, scholars, and advocates, I've also learned about other human rights issues and the global network of human rights actors striving to truly better the world for all.
What has been your favorite moment in the program so far?
I've loved hearing from guest speakers in some of my classes, especially my law school seminar. Though the course isn't sponsored by the ISHR, having the opportunity to take courses across Columbia's different schools has been quite important to me.
What has been the most challenging part of the program?
Graduate school courses definitely have more reading and work than undergraduate courses. While it has been harder to stay on top of everything, it definitely has not been impossible!
What are your goals (professional or academic) after graduation? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I hope to pursue either a JD or a PhD after finishing my MA. Though I may work in the human rights advocacy and nonprofit space before returning to school, I see myself graduating with another degree in 10 years! After that, I hope to either become a human rights academic or part of a human rights legal team.
What is your favorite spot to study or spend time on campus?
The Lehman Library in the International Affairs Building! I know it isn't pretty, but it's where I can get the most done.
What is your hometown/area famous for?
Southern Louisiana is known for food (and getting hit by hurricanes every now and then).