ASU student attends human rights training at United Nations

woman standing in front of United Nations flags with certificate

ASU global studies and English junior Alyssa Orozco framed by national flags on the lawn of the United Nations Building in Geneva.


Alyssa Orozco believes a healthy planet is a human right. The Arizona State University global studies and English junior recently returned from a trip to Geneva, Switzerland, where she attended a human rights training program at the United Nations with the assistance of the SPGS Travel Grant offered by the School of Politics and Global Studies.

The Human Rights in Action program is a weeklong training that includes discussions with key human rights actors. Orozco received the opportunity through the United Nations Association chapter at ASU. In total, 21 students from across the globe participated this year.

Attendees each presented a project proposal that would be implemented in their local communities over the course of six months. Orozco’s project focused on the intersectionality between climate change and human rights.

“I’d like to empower people and bridge this gap of confusion as to ‘Where do I fit in?’ or ‘I don’t know enough to make a difference,’ when in reality we do,” she said.

Orozco proposed a series of lecture events that would inspire discussions connecting the planet’s health with topics such as gender inequality, poverty and human trafficking.

“This would be done in an inclusive and engaging environment that connects the ASU student body to activists and leaders throughout the Valley who are doing amazing work showing up for our human rights to prosper and thrive.”

Orozco shared some of her experiences from the training with ASU Now:

Question: Why did you want to attend this training?

Answer: I first heard of the training in the summer, while the semester prior I had just taken on a human rights certificate. The certificate was something I had been eyeing for some time and knew felt right to begin honing in on potential career paths. It seemed like fate when the opportunity presented itself and that I, in fact, was taking the right steps. I wanted to attend the training because understanding our human rights is so fundamentally crucial in our individual development as compassionate beings of this life we lead. All I’ve ever known as a vague career path was that I wanted to help people in a hands-on dynamic, so I knew to be in the presence of the best and brightest in a hub that actively works towards the protection of people’s rights to live and be respected as human beings is something I needed to experience and see for myself.

Q: What were some of your takeaways from this experience?

A: A big takeaway for me from this experience is that people are absolutely incredible and resilient. We hear of a lot of bad and awful things that occur throughout the world and sometimes it can be so daunting to imagine that people’s basic human rights are being violated in the most tragic of ways. However, for all the bad that exists, there is so much more good that manifests itself in people’s ambitions to change the world for the better. Human connection is a beautiful thing, and again, I have to say that I count myself so lucky to have met such sensational activists across the globe through this experience.

Q: How do you think this trip will help you attain your career aspirations?

A: The right to a planet that is not on the brink of collapse and is healthy for generations to come is of utmost priority to me. Climate change is not a game and requires serious attention to effectively and immediately reverse the damage done to our ecosystems and the people across the globe who feel its impact firsthand. I care about people and, because I do, I care about our human right to adequate food, land, water and mending our relationship to the planet. By becoming an environmental lawyer and advocating for the planet, I believe I too will be advocating for people.

Q: What advice would you give those who are interested in a similar experience?

A: The advice I would give is to just apply! Even if you don’t think you’re qualified, you owe it to yourself and the fact it piqued your interest in the first place to try. You may surprise yourself. I’d also recommend applying with your most ambitious project idea on the table, let your passion for change encourage you to pursue the human rights issue that frustrates and intrigues you the most.

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