National Center for Civil & Human Rights Expands Students’ Perceptions

When the National Center for Civil and Human Rights opened in downtown Atlanta this past summer, several Oglethorpe students and alumni were proud to have played a part and found parallels between the Center’s mission and their Oglethorpe experience.

First envisioned by civil rights leaders Evelyn Lowery and former United Nations Ambassador and Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, the Center aims to “empower people to take the protection of every human’s rights personally through sharing the stories of courage and struggle.” It is one of the only cultural attractions in the world to connect the American Civil Rights and the Global Human Rights Movements.

Ruwa Romman ’15 began her internship in June in the Center’s membership department, but her work quickly expanded to include assignments in other areas. “I helped out on projects they didn’t expect me to be able to handle,” said Ruwa. “I had interdisciplinary work that involved multiple departments. The idea that I could work for marketing, membership, and development, and still maintain all those responsibilities was really valuable.”

Ruwa Romman and Congressman John Lewis

Ruwa Romman ’15, pictured above with U.S. Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.), a leader in the Civil Rights Movement

Ruwa credits Oglethorpe with helping her to learn to conduct in-depth research, write well, and consider different perspectives. “One of the first things they told me (at the Center),” says Ruwa, “was that we love having Oglethorpe students. We, as students, are jaded to it because we hear it so much, but it’s true. I say I’m from Oglethorpe and people respond ‘oh, we’ve had great interns from there.’”

Ruxanda Renita ’14, who came to Oglethorpe after graduating from Oxford Brookes University in England, worked with the Center’s communications team. Her internship, as well as her Oglethorpe classes, she says, helped her to leave her comfort zone, to embrace diversity and other cultures, and to view the world through others’ perspectives. “Life is not one way or another, but rather a puzzle,” Ruxanda says, “You are encouraged and trained to meet those challenges.”

Ruxanda now holds two bachelor’s degrees in art business and history, and found the hands-on experience with American art and culture to be invaluable. It was a memorable moment, she says, the first time she walked through the museum and saw traditional and digital art combined to tell so many compelling stories. The Center “represents a bridge between the past and future of American culture,” she says.

Cedric Floyd ’13, who wrote a history of the Center’s inception, describes the Oglethorpe community as a microcosm of what the Center strives to inspire on a global scale. He points to the Oglethorpe Core, which challenges students to think about themselves as individuals, the global community, historical perspectives, and how all of those relate. “While I was at Oglethorpe, I saw firsthand how many different people worked side-by-side in a harmonious community.”

Ruwa, who serves as Student Government Association President and leader of COEXIST, a campus organization that promotes interfaith dialogue and community service, also sees the Center’s ideals reflected on the Oglethorpe campus. “Oglethorpe students make the time to come out and say, ‘I do not want to be part of a world that is intolerant’ and that is also what the Center does.”

According to Ruwa, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights also is “the kind of place that you walk through and you realize there’s something bigger than you.” She recently accompanied a group of Freedom Riders, including Georgia U.S. Congressman , as they toured the museum. “These are people who lived this history,” marvels Ruwa, “and to get a chance to walk with them, and to listen to their memories…that was one of the best experiences I’d ever had.”

Parker Rhodes ’15 is a communication and rhetoric studies major and a history minor, hockey enthusiast, and bibliophile. He hopes to enter into a career in sports PR.

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