Q&A with Ivania Galeano, LL.M. ’21
U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Honduras
Ivania Galeano came to Minnesota Law from Honduras in 2020 to participate in our LL.M. program. Since graduating in May, she has returned to her native country to continue her work in human rights at the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. In this special online extra to Minnesota Law magazine, Galeano shares her reflections on her field, her experiences in the program, and her time in the Twin Cities.
You came to Minnesota Law from Honduras as a Fulbright Scholar. Could you talk about your experience?
As a Fulbright scholar during my time at the University of Minnesota, I had the opportunity to discuss and share with classmates, professors, and colleagues my country´s history and culture, its current social and political context and challenges in order to contribute to a better understanding of what is happening in my country and the Central American region.
Please briefly describe the human rights work you have done in your home country.
My work in Honduras has centered in promoting the respect of human rights for vulnerable groups—particularly women´s and indigenous peoples’ rights—along with supporting human rights defenders and promoting accountability of human rights violations. I´ve been fortunate to work with civil society organizations, governmental institutions, and international organizations.
Why makes you so passionate about human rights?
I think because human rights protection has been, and still is, a major issue of concern in my country, and this influenced what I wanted my law career to be about. In 2009, after I had finish law school a coup d'etat took place in Honduras, which enable serious human rights violations that have continue to unfold to present day.
What would you tell others about the importance of engaging locally, nationally, and/or globally on human rights issues?
To engage from wherever they are and independent of whatever background they have, in the promotion and protection of human rights. I think that it is an area of work and advocacy that is strengthened and enriched by diversity of professional backgrounds and experiences and where there is so much still, to continue to work for.
What was your professional goal in enrolling in an LL.M. Program?
To increase my knowledge of the United States’ legal system and also to engage with colleagues from different parts of the world. Specifically, from a comparative view, I was interested in better understanding the Rule of Law tradition in the United States, but also the legal traditions of other regions of the world that were represented by the LL.M. classmates.
Why did you pick Minnesota Law as the place to get your LL.M.?
Because of its solid academic program, its faculty, the diversity of concentrations and the Twin Cities. Also, the fact that it had practical experiences for international student to engage with.
What were some of the highlights of your time in the program?
The opportunity to meet and learn from my LL.M. classmates´ diverse cultural and professional background. Also being able to participate in voluntary work with organizations working in immigration issues and seeing how they are supporting my co-nationals on this side of the border. Finally, being able to watch how the Minnesota Law community came together and the conversations held around race issues affecting the cities, was also significantly instructive.
How did the COVID 19 pandemic impact your experience?
The pandemic, of course, changed the way in which we engage with our classmates and our faculty. We didn´t had the opportunity to meet in person with most of them, so part of that interaction and connection was lost. On the flip side, it created a closer bond between the LL.M.s/International Program team because we were figuring stuff together—from the logistics of getting to the United States to navigating the courses and keeping updated with the visa requirements.
How did you enjoy your time in the Twin Cities?
I was struck by the natural beauty of the Twin Cities. I was lucky to be able to enjoyed winter activities like cross country skiing (a first time for me), along with the spring and fall activities like parks and lakes visits that enables us to spend time outside, get-together, being safe at the same time. I will have to come back for summer!
What are you doing now that you have accomplished your LL.M.?
I have recently returned to my country and will be getting back to my job at U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. I am looking forward to putting into practice the tools and knowledge the LL.M. provided me with, and keeping in touch with classmates and professors to continue to exchange experiences.
Minnesota Law seeks to instill the value of lawyer-leadership. What does lawyer-leadership mean to you and how did your time at Minnesota Law advance your journey toward being a lawyer-leader?
Lawyer-leadership means to me putting the skills that the legal profession offers into the service and well-being of your community. My time at Minnesota Law enabled me to see the role of lawyer leaders in special difficult times, like the one the city has faced around race issues this last year. I expect to be able to continue to support the collective efforts of civil society organizations in my country, with new tools the LL.M. and the Fulbright experience provided me with, working to improve the human rights situation.
What advice would you give someone considering Minnesota Law’s LL.M. program?
To come the University of Minnesota Law´s LL.M.! You will find yourself with a beautiful city and vibrant communities, but most of all with a strong academic program that will provide you with tools and knowledge for your professional growth, not only in the classroom but also in other spaces like student organizations, voluntary community work, and local organizations.
Anything else you would like to share?
Thank you much for the opportunity to share my experience and thanks to the my fellow LL.M. classmates, the International Program Team, and professors for making this a very enriching and unforgettable experience.