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Monday, September 22, 2014

Human Rights Program Welcomes Visiting Colombian Scholars

colombia.pngHuman Rights Program faculty, staff, and students welcomed four visiting scholars from Medellín, Colombia in early September. These visits were made possible through the Minnesota-Antioquia Human Rights Externship Program - a key component of the Minnesota-Antioquia Human Rights Partnership (or Alianza). The Program provides an opportunity for the Colombian scholars to complete four to six-week externships in Minnesota each semester with the goal of enhancing skills and knowledge in international human rights law and advocacy.

Two of the visitors, Carolina Lodoño Escudero and Verónica Cadavid González, are law students at the Universidad de Medellín and the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, respectively. During their six week stay in the Twin Cities, Carolina and Verónica are auditing human rights courses at the University of Minnesota and participating in externships at local NGOs - Volunteer Lawyers Network and The Advocates for Human Rights. "Classes here are very different from those in Colombia. Students participate actively in the classes," says Carolina when asked about her reaction after she was introduced to the University of Minnesota. "The teaching methodology followed here is very good," adds Verónica.

A third visitor, Astrid Osorio Alvarez , is a newly hired staff person for the Alianza and former legal clinical professor at the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana. Astrid is working closely with the UMN Human Rights Litigation and International Legal Advocacy Clinic directed by Professor Jennifer Green to advance ongoing collaborative work on cases to advance the rights of children and displaced individuals in Colombia. "We have initiated a joint project with the Human Rights Clinic led by Professor Green. I'm really amazed by the enthusiasm shown by the students here on the proposed rights issues of the children in Colombia," says Astrid.

The fourth visitor, Zeller Álvarez Urrego, is the Antioquia-based coordinator for the Partnership. While in Minnesota, Zeller is meeting with project staff and faculty clinicians and students to support the strengthening of academic and administrative work of the Partnership. He is especially grateful for the opportunity to connect with the many faculty members and students focused on human rights.
Astrid, Carolina, and Verónica are very excited about their stay in Minnesota and plan to make the best use of the educational opportunities available to them here. They look forward to absorbing new skills and knowledge that will enable them to become leaders in the movement to enhance human rights in Colombia. "The Externship Program gives me an opportunity whereby my academic study goes hand-in-hand with work at a local NGO. When I go to Colombia, I will know how to integrate work and academics," says Verónica.