Pre-Law senior Evan Autry

Evan AutryThe Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice: An internship for thinkers

Human Rights. Terrorism. Global Affairs. Domestic Politics. Social Justice. Immigration. Women's Rights. You name it; I learned it. Recently, I interned at the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice at the University of Texas School of Law. The Intellectual Entrepreneurship Pre-Grad Internship experience not only exposed me to different ways of thinking; it changed my life. Everyday-students and faculty alike-wake up and dedicate their time to pursuing a better world. The study and promotion of human rights cannot limit itself to academia, so most of these people play dual roles of scholar and activist. As an intern, I had the opportunity to explore how I wanted to make a difference. The IE internship at the Center for Human Rights and Justice allowed me to grow intellectually, experience graduate school first hand, and granted me a wonderful perspective about human rights and global affairs.

Intellectual Growth

The University of Texas at Austin has given me many opportunities to excel. From the Preview Program to the Normandy Scholars Program, I have rarely passed up an opportunity to experience something new and exciting. When I heard that the Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice needed help reaching out to undergraduate students, I pounced on the opportunity.

When I first met the people involved with the Center, I knew I would have a fun semester. Karen Engle-my faculty sponsor and W.H. Francis, Jr. Professor-allowed me to study underneath her and four wonderful law students. Professor Engle teaches several courses dealing with international law, immigration, and human rights. While Professor Engle graduated from Harvard Law School, publishes in numerous prestigious law journals, and speaks all across the world, she still insists that I call her Karen. I have been humbled to work with her.

Professor Engle's main philosophy includes flexibility matched with responsibility. At the beginning of my internship, she gave me the opportunity to tell her what I wanted to work on. When she saw my passion for certain subjects, she asked me to work on curriculum development and undergraduate relations. Therefore, I am finishing up a website that highlights classes that address issues of human rights. At the end of the year, I am writing a report and giving my top five suggestions on how the Center should pursue human rights education at the undergraduate level.

Hands-on Graduate Experience

Since childhood, I wanted to study law. Watching TV programs like Law and Order gave me a romanticized perspective on law. However, after spending time with law students, I realized I had a very flawed view on the study of law.

Rachel Lopez-a second year law student, my IE mentor, and Human Rights Scholar-helped me discover several of my interests. She decided to study law, because she wants to help people who cannot afford or acquire legal representation by themselves. Often, these people come from economically underprivileged areas or countries; other times they may be detainees or refugees. Regardless, she knew she needed to study law to help these people.

I-on the other hand-discovered my disinterested for the study of law. In my opinion, law is too tedious, technical, and frustrating. While I care about human rights, I don't necessarily want to pursue a career as an activist. My mentor, Rachel, picked my brain and helped me generate a list of other possible graduate school options. They ranged from graduate studies in business, rhetoric and communication studies, and public policy.

All of the Human Rights Scholars helped me form an opinion on law school. Now, I feel comfortable with making the decision not to attend law school upon graduation. Instead, I am going to take some time off and find a route that feels comfortable and meant for me. They advised me not to pursue something based on what others say or without experiencing it first hand.

A unique perspective

In the last fifty years, the world has become more and more interconnected. World organizations like the International Monetary Fund, National Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the United Nations have forever changed the way countries interact. Nevertheless, as our cultures mix and our economies expand, human rights issues continue to flourish across the world-and even in our nation.

The Center for Human Rights and Justice devotes itself to human rights education, advocacy, and activism. Unlike most academic centers, the Rapoport Center acts as a center for human rights studies, but also as bastion for human rights activism. The Center selects law students as Human Rights Scholars, who take internships during the summer in areas facing human rights issues or with NGOs dedicated to human rights activism.

Personally, the Center taught me to think outside of the box and to understand the amount of work and dedication that goes into advocating for human rights. First, the study of law forces students to put aside their personal opinions and stand up for what's right according to the law. When I learned more about the issues facing detainees in Guantanamo Bay, I quickly changed my perspective. Second, human rights cases often involved maneuvering through bureaucratic systems and governments. The scholars' expertise in law helps them deal with many of these issues. By and large, I would say that my respect increased for the men and women who dedicate their time fighting for human rights across the world. They face extreme obstacles, but rarely lose passion or focus.

Intellect + Experience + Perspective = Success

My IE Pre-Grad Internship in the Center for Human Rights and Justice has been a wonderful experience. Karen Engle, Sarah Cline, Rachel Lopez, and the other scholars, welcomed me with open arms and gave me the chance to expand my mind and pursue one of my passions. While I stay very busy with Student Government, Normandy Scholars, and my fraternity, the Center allowed me to accomplish many goals and to learn from some of the brightest minds at the University of Texas.

Human Rights will always be in the back of my mind. Whether I'm buying my clothes from a prominent department store, voting, or simply traveling abroad, I'll always speculate how they respect-or disrespect-human rights.