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Business through the lens of human rights

March 14, 2019
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ANN ARBOR — Chelsea Racelis has recently returned to Ann Arbor after completing Humanity in Action fellowship in Warsaw, Poland. She was just one of 24 people in her cohort of emerging leaders in human rights and social justice.

“It was the longest time I’ve spent abroad, besides visiting the countries of my parents,” said Racelis, a rising senior pursuing a dual degree in business and international studies. “My mom’s from Singapore, and my dad’s from the Philippines.”

The daughter of immigrants, Racelis has a longstanding passion for international human rights. The summer after her freshman year, she traveled to Singapore to visit family and conducted research on trafficking and exploitation of domestic workers. She ended up submitting an op-ed about this experience to the Michigan Journal of Public Affairs.

“The topics that interest me vary from supply chain ethics with a focus on labor rights in factories to labor trafficking in Hong Kong and the UAE,” she added.

The summer’s Humanity in Action fellowship was different from the others. Racelis’s work in Warsaw relied heavily on collaboration between group members of varied ages and educational backgrounds.

“Our age range in my fellowship was 19-30. It was really cool because we were all in different stages of education—some were doing their PhDs, some were working, and some were undergraduates like me.”

Racelis said the program was divided into two phases—the input phase and the output phase. During the input phase, fellows learned about social justice and human rights topics using Poland as a case study. The output phase allowed Racelis to put her business skills to the test. Her project team was tasked with developing a model for a new Humanity in Action revenue stream.

“That was a great challenge for me, and we came up with something that some of us are still thinking about developing,” said the Ross and LSA major.

Racelis points out that her two majors sometimes clashed during her time at U-M.

“Business can sometimes be at odds with human rights, but there are a lot of different ways to bring them together,” said Racelis. “I’ve found my intersection between business and human rights; and how we can change systems. It’s about creating those standards and actually holding companies accountable.”

Racelis said she is grateful for the International Institute (II) which led to her travels to Poland.
“That’s what I always tell people here,” she said. “Make time to go to those events that you think are cool because most of the decisions I’ve made about what I want to do are because of speakers I met in Michigan.”

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