Student Highlight

Erica Ivins
Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Erica Ivins shares her 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?

M.A. Human Rights Studies; December 2022

What is your research focus in the HRSMA program?
I strongly believe that a historical approach to human rights policy is essential to facilitate justice and reconciliation for oppressed peoples. My research thus explores how historical memory shapes demands for redress today. I am particularly interested in examining the United States’ failure to reckon with its long history of slavery, colonialism, and genocide, and how such systems still manifest in modern social, political, and economic structures. For my research, I intend to study how Black radicalism and Indigenous knowledge have enabled African Americans and Native peoples to reflect on their own oppression as a form of genocide; I also hope to shed light on the ways in which critical race theory, post-colonialism, and historical dialogue serve to treat victim groups as the primary stakeholders in reconciliation processes.
Which class would you recommend to other students interested in the same issues as you?
I would strongly recommend that every human rights student takes Professor Khatchig Mouradian’s course on War, Genocide, and Their Aftermath. His class uses case studies from around the world to teach students how to recognize the many manifestations of genocide denial in governmental apologies, scholarship, and policies.
Where did you grow up? In which countries and/or cities have you lived?
I grew up in central Massachusetts. In 2017, I spent my first semester of college living in London, England before attending Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. I returned to England in 2019 to conduct research at the British Library and Oxford University’s Bodleian Library.
What is a must-read for a human rights student?
History often forgets that the African American Civil Rights Movement began as a human rights movement. I would highly recommend Carol Anderson’s Eyes Off The Prize: The United Nations and the African-American Struggle for Human Rights, 1944-1955.
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?
Since October 2021, I have volunteered to call and connect with Holocaust Survivors on a weekly basis through DOROT, a nonprofit organization which addresses the challenges of aging populations. This opportunity has enabled me to become trained in Person-Centered Trauma Care while also building new connections with New Yorkers of all ages. 
What has been your favorite moment in the program so far?
My favorite part of the program thus far has been meeting all of the people in my cohort! My classmates make the interdisciplinary nature of the HRSMA program so special, as they bring a wide variety of research interests and experiences to the classroom from around the world.
What has been the most challenging part of the program?
The most challenging part of the program has been getting accustomed to living in New York City. While I have spent a lot of time in European cities, New York has been an experience in itself! I look forward to exploring the city even more in Spring 2022.
What are your goals (professional or academic) after graduation? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
After graduation, I seek to conduct human rights research around the world with the hope of shaping policies to overcome genocide denial and facilitate reconciliation. I also intend to pursue further human rights studies through another master’s or doctoral program in history or international relations.
What is your favorite spot to study or spend time on campus?
My favorite study spot is Avery Library by the windows facing Low Library! My favorite spot to spend time on campus is on the lawns in front of Butler at sunset, when campus looks most beautiful.
What is one thing that your peers would never guess about you or might find surprising?
My peers would be surprised to know that I love visiting historical graveyards and analyzing the iconography on the stones! I have been to over 300 graveyards around the world.
What is your hometown/area famous for?
Worcester, Massachusetts is famous for Polar beverages, strong Boston accents, and not being pronounced phonetically (like “Worcestershire sauce”)!