Alumni Spotlight: Hannah Dunphy, Physicians for Human Rights

Name: Hannah Dunphy

Degree: M.A.

Year Graduated: 2014

Career: Human Rights and Media

Title: Digital Communications Manager

Organization: Physicians for Human Rights


What brought you to The New School?

I was always drawn to the New School’s history as a place of innovation, creativity and political engagement. As a professional in the international human rights field, I knew I wanted a school that could bring rigorous, critical analysis of the traditional international relations theory that was being taught at other universities. While I had other offers, I knew The New School would be the place to challenge me the most intellectually, and introduce me to perspectives that were “bottom-up” rather than top-down. As an American working in international human rights, I felt especially obligated to orient my studies in a non-Western way as much as possible.

What was your professional and educational background before you came?

I graduated from the Gallatin School at NYU after three years of designing my own curriculum on topics such as mass atrocities (xenophobia, race studies, psychology, political theory….) as well as transitional justice and international criminal justice. I had campaigned extensively with Amnesty International USA, as well as with other student organizations building relationships with human rights movements around the world. I had also spent a semester with the Mexico Solidarity Network, where I had the privilege of living with and learning from communities throughout that country who were actively organizing for land rights, protection of indigenous identities, labor rights, and justice for victims of sexual violence. At the time I started SGPIA, I was working full time with the International Center for Transitional Justice as the manager of English Digital Content, so some of my professors were also my colleagues, and it was a great way to learn.

What are the most important things you learned through SGPIA?

That communities demand justice in different ways – if you work in international relations, your responsibility is to listen first, and build justice processes alongside survivors, not impose a model simply because you think it’s right. I also learned that it’s our responsibility to change old ways of thinking in large systems like the UN, who are often operating on models or ways of thinking from the 1950s.

What is your current work/position? How did SGPIA prepare you for it?

I will soon start as the Digital Communications Manager with Physicians for Human Rights. I recently wrapped up three years with Justice Rapid Response (JRR), an international mechanism created by the Member States of the United Nations to rapidly deploy international criminal investigators to assist with investigations into crimes like genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. In my work with JRR, I regularly traveled to places where survivors of mass atrocities had told their stories and were working for justice- in places like Mali, The Gambia, Turkey, etc. it really mattered how I presented myself, what kind of sensitivity I could bring to those discussions, how I respected survivors who told me their stories (and then how I presented the story back to the world in my writing and documentary films…) SGPIA was the best preparation for that.