Carnegie Mellon University
December 10, 2020

Liberty and Justice for All

Nicole Austin-Hillery encourages others to share their voices and embrace opportunities to make a difference at home and around the world.

By Amanda S.F. Hartle

Nicole Austin-Hillery was barely a teenager when she discovered her calling during an eighth-grade English class.

As part of the course’s speech and debate unit, each student chose their own topics. Nicole’s selections always dealt with economic justice, racial injustice and defending those who could not speak for themselves. Her teacher noticed and named Nicole “Most Likely to Succeed in a Field Involving Public Speaking.”

“It was through those conversations and that period of learning when I was 13 that I realized the best way for me to utilize my skills and passion was to become a civil and human rights lawyer,” says Nicole, a Dietrich College of Social Sciences and Humanities alumna who holds an undergraduate degree in history.

Decades later, as the U.S. program executive director for Human Rights Watch since 2018, she has expanded her drive for change to the global stage as part of an organization that, in addition to tackling the U.S. domestic agenda, addresses the world’s biggest crises such as Syria’s civil war, the Rohingya genocide, refugees in Europe and South Sudan’s conflict, among others.

Read more about Ms. Austin-Hillery’s work