Courtney Tran

2016 to 2017
Human Rights Watch, Health and Human Rights Division
Placement Location:
New York City
Service Interest:
Refugee rights, women’s rights, and international affairs
Political Science
Berkeley, CA

Berkeley Experience: Courtney entered the University of California, Berkeley as a Regents’ and Chancellor’s Scholar, and graduated with high honors in Political Science with a focus on international relations. During her four years at Berkeley, she served as president of the Law in Practice Club, worked as a research assistant on projects in political science and sociology, and edited the Berkeley Undergraduate Journal. Through Berkeley’s UCDC program, she spent a semester in Washington, DC researching terrorist use of social media. Her interest in international affairs led her to complete two study abroad programs: first in international security and intelligence at the University of Cambridge, and later in international relations and global studies at the University of Geneva. 

Service Experience: Courtney’s interest in public service began early: in high school, as an active member of the Oakland Public Library Youth Leadership Council, Courtney advised the Oakland Public Library on improving its service to youth and spoke out against library budget cuts during the 2010 city budget crisis. Over the next four years, she went on to observe legislative proceedings as an intern with the Office of California Assemblymember Rob Bonta, and to work a staff intern in the Director’s Office of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars. She also studied tribal groups at risk of displacement through an internship at Survival International, and aided refugee resettlement in the Bay Area through an internship at the International Rescue Committee. 

Fellowship Goal: Courtney’s Fellowship goal is to apply her background studying international security to addressing the plight of displaced people, especially women. She looks forward to working with an organization that advocates for displaced people’s rights and conducts research on the issues they face.

Post-Fellowship Plans: After the Fellowship, Courtney plans to pursue a master’s degree in international affairs and a career in research for public service. 

Commitment to Service: “My commitment to service is my belief that wanting to share good things with other people, and wanting to alleviate the suffering that others feel, is a fundament of being human. Service is an expression of that: it brings people together because it requires us not only to respect differences but also, more importantly, to recognize in others the same joys, fears, and needs that we ourselves have. What are we here for, if not to help each other?”


view of New York from Human Rights Watch office
Courtney Tran, John Gardner Fellows
My last blog post was about my hopes to gain field experience in future professional positions. I had imagined taking a few months’ break from work to continue applying to short-term field positions, and being rejected from all of them because I still only have one year of non-internship work...
children at syrian refugee camp
Courtney Tran, John Gardner Fellows
I spent the first week and a half of my fellowship in researcher training, where I was warned by colleagues of the occasionally graphic nature of work at Human Rights Watch, and how important self-care would be to a healthy work-life balance. I’ve always been drawn to intense issues—my first...