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Lucy Alumna Diane Furstenau (Politics, 2010)  on pursuing her dream career in human rights

Since I was young, I knew I wanted to pursue a career that would allow me to help others. Growing up in Idaho, I enjoyed volunteering in my hometown and giving back to my community.  However, I wasn't really sure how to transform this passion into a profession. Leaving home and jumping out of my comfort zone helped me find the answers to this question. While studying political science at the University of Pennsylvania, I took a course on human rights that made me realize that I could make service an occupation in the human rights field.

After graduating from college and spending a year volunteering in City Year, an AmeriCorps program, I decided to apply to the MPhil in politics program at Cambridge, hoping to focus my thesis on a human rights-related topic. I had spent my junior year in college abroad in the UK, absolutely loved it, and wanted to go back to study political science, if possible. Shockingly, I was accepted and found myself at Lucy Cavendish College. It was such a warm, welcoming, and supportive community. I felt so fortunate to be able to expand my knowledge in politics and hone my research skills at a place that was truly a home away from home! 

Following my time at Lucy, I went back to the United States to attend Cornell Law School. Edging closer to graduation, I decided to explore legal fellowships at human rights organizations. As a fellow, and later counsel, at the Public International Law and Policy Group, I provided legal support and managed transitional justice and counter-terrorism programs in Kosovo, Kenya, South Sudan, Iraq, Syria, and Tanzania. Currently, I am a senior program officer at Freedom House, supporting human rights advocacy programs in Uganda and Tanzania. Because of the tense political environments in Uganda and Tanzania, the work of local activists is becoming both progressively more challenging and increasingly crucial to protect citizens’ freedoms. To overcome these challenges, I work with my team members to design and implement programs to assist local organizations in developing advocacy strategies, building advocacy skills, and carrying out campaigns. I have been so lucky to be able to travel around the world and meet these inspirational people who motivate me to continue in this line of work. 

Throughout my formative years in college, graduate school, and law school, I was told multiple times how difficult it would be to start a career in human rights. Despite this, I never gave up on my dream. I took advantage of all the opportunities I had to take human rights courses and intern at human rights organizations to get my foot in the door. The opportunity I had at Cambridge to further explore my interest in human rights was one for which I will always be grateful. I learned so much about politics and activism from my professors and other students. In my education and career, I have also learned how important it is to be flexible and open to trying new things.  While a job or assigned project may not be exactly what you want, you never know where it may take you. View each position as an amazing chance to learn about your field of work and yourself.