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Doctoral student’s passion: Human rights

Paola Fajardo traces her interest in human rights to her childhood in Colombia, which has endured more than 60 years of armed conflict. Her time at Binghamton has given her new tools to study the issue and her homeland.

“Human rights has always been my passion,” said Fajardo, a doctoral student in political science. “It’s impossible for a person who grew up in a developing country not to try to understand why people struggle the way they do without anything changing. I really want to put my mind to understanding these problems and helping people have a better way of life.”

As a teenager, Fajardo was appalled by the poor quality of life outside her home city of Bogotá. As an undergraduate, she studied Colombian conflicts over coffee and bananas. “That opened my eyes,” she said. “It made me think that social science needs to address these inequalities and help government institutions to solve these problems.”

At Binghamton, Fajardo has worked closely with Professor David Cingranelli, one of the creators of the CIRI Human Rights Dataset, which emphasizes a quantitative approach to measuring human rights around the world. She helps to supervise the small army of undergraduates who read through reports from the U.S. State Department and generate the information in the dataset.

“My interests revolve around foreign aid and the impact it has in the developing world,” she said. “I have never thought it was positive. In my dissertation, I’m looking at this ‘unearned revenue,’ as I call it. It has, I think, a negative impact on developing countries human rights conditions.”

Governments that depend on taxes paid by their citizens are more responsible and more accountable to the public, she said. They also have more respect for citizens’ human rights.

The 31-year-old plans to pursue a career in teaching at an American university, though she’d also like to return to Colombia frequently “so I can return a little bit of what I have been so lucky to receive.”

Fajardo has “outstanding potential as an undergraduate teacher in international relations and comparative politics,” Cingranelli said, and has done a terrific job with the CIRI project.

“Paola’s genuine interest in her students’ education and well-being are obvious, especially to her students,” he said. “She has an energetic presentation style and the ability to fairly field and discuss diverse opinions. She is always well prepared. She is willing to be available to students beyond regular class hours, and has the ability to operate her classes in an atmosphere of mutual respect.”
 

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Last Updated: 10/14/08