For as long as she can remember, Maddie Bavley has been fascinated by human rights. At an early age, when most girls obsessed over princesses and fairy tales, Maddie was more concerned with gender equality. Years later, her passion for human rights remains as strong as ever, but her focus has shifted to issues like immigration reform and racial profiling.
Inspired by her philanthropic interests in social justice issues, Maddie decided to pursue a major in sociology with a concentration in human rights at Columbia University in New York City. She dreams of becoming an advocate for local New York organizations like Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International, and will pursue a law degree as well, after Columbia, to help her achieve her goal.
Human Rights is not a common area of study in American universities: according to Professor Samuel Boyn, director of the Human Rights Department at Columbia, very few schools even offer a minor in Human Rights. Beginning next year, Columbia will offer a major as well as a concentration, or minor, in Human Rights, a development that Maddie was unaware of when she made her decision.
“I think I maybe would try [the Human Rights major],” Maddie said, “but Columbia has a core curriculum that takes about one-third of the academic time, so I don’t know how well I’d be able to fit it in.”
Maddie’s decision to attend Columbia was partly based on her belief that attending Columbia would help her ease into the field of human rights advocacy with its proximity to many human rights organizations. Professor Boyn reaffirmed her belief.
“We have internship panels and help students make connections through our networks,” Boyn said. “Of course, it is a competitive scene, but being in New York is the best place to be in the world to work at the United Nations or a non-governmental organization.”
Maddie’s interest in the study of social issues isn’t a recent development. She decided during her sophomore year that she wanted to major in sociology and minor in human rights. This led her to consider Columbia, which offered the rare minor.
However, this was not the first time Maddie had been introduced to Columbia. Her dad, Kansas City Star writer Alan Bavley, attended Columbia and exposed Maddie to Columbia before she even started considering colleges. When Maddie put Columbia on her application list during her junior year, Alan took her to visit Columbia. The visit had a decisive impact on Maddie’s decision.
When it came time to make her big decision, Columbia and two other schools that offered Human Rights rose to the top of her list. At the last moment she chose Columbia, in part because of her two visits there.
“I really, really liked the feel of the place,” Maddie said. “It just felt right.”
Alan believes that Columbia presents itself as a good fit for Maddie.
“She wants to go to a college in an urban area where she will encounter a diversity of people and cultures. What greater melting pot is there than New York?”