Audel Shokohzadeh is a Master of Public Policy alumnus ('17) who graduated with a concentration in economic development. He also has a deep interest in human rights, and took a variety of courses offered through the Human Rights Program while working toward his master's degree.
His current position is community engagement director at the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. We caught up with Audel to hear about his role, and how his human rights focus at the Humphrey School helped prepare him for this work.
Tell us about your current job.
The Department of Human Rights is Minnesota's civil rights enforcement agency and works to create a world where everyone can lead lives full of dignity and joy. As community engagement director, I work to achieve civil rights engagement through meaningful strategies that strengthen relationships, recognize the inherent value of all Minnesotans, and acknowledge the natural intersections of our identities.
How has your experience in the human rights program enhanced this work?
One of the most important skills I gained through my studies in human rights is the ability to apply cultural humility to policy analysis and recommendations. Usually when we think of cultural humility, we think of it in terms of an important value to embrace. Equally as critical is being able to recognize the inherent value of missing narratives and perspectives, and bring new stories to the forefront of your professional work through empathy and understanding.
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in entering the same field as you?
I work in community engagement. My goal is to continually identify opportunities for partnerships and (re)strengthening relationships with community leaders, advocates, community-based organizations, governmental organizations, and other partners to ensure that our policies and practices reflect people's lived experiences and will meaningfully improve peoples lives.
If you are interested in being in this field I highly encourage you to strengthen and establish stakeholder analysis skills. There are many times when I have conversations with people where I know that the organization I work in is not the appropriate resource. It is vitally important that in those moments, that I work to "yes" by identifying and connecting community members with other colleagues or leaders in other organizations. By establishing myself as a reliable and known resource, people feel comfortable coming to me for help and are willing to provide me with valuable assistance when I need help.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your career?
What I love most about my job is the ability to connect with people all across the state. Before the current COVID-19 epidemic I traveled over 1,000 miles to different places across the state to meet with partners and give presentations about the work my organization does. I love being able to meet new people and to be able to forge meaningful relationships.
This story was originally published by the Human Rights Program in the University's College of Liberal Arts.