Human Rights Campaigner

Written by: 
Nancy Kolsti

Rebecca Vincent ('05)Before she completed her bachelor's degree in political science, Rebecca Vincent ('05) passed all parts of the Foreign Service Officer Exam for the U.S. State Department on her first try. When she began training after graduation at 22, she was the youngest in her class. Her first assignment took her to the U.S. Embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan, where she focused on democracy and human rights issues, and she went on to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York, to cover the 63rd General Assembly as a political reporting officer.

After leaving the State Department and moving to the UK to earn a master's in human rights from University College London, she returned to Azerbaijan in 2012. She was forced out of the country in connection with her work with human rights groups but continued to campaign for reforms in Azerbaijan from abroad, including through the Sports for Rights campaign.

"I never thought I would focus on one country for so long," she says. "Azerbaijan had started its crackdown on government critics before I first moved there, but the repression quickly accelerated. Then many of my local friends and colleagues were jailed, so I couldn't walk away."

Following her campaigning on Azerbaijan, Reporters Without Borders recruited Vincent to direct its London bureau when it opened last year. There she advocates for press freedom worldwide.

As a junior at UNT, Vincent ran for Student Government Association president, joining the race just a week before the election after a candidate dropped out, leaving the remaining candidate unopposed.

"I felt the election would be unfair. The NT Daily endorsed me, and I ended up with 47 percent of the vote in just one week," she says.

She credits the international affairs emphasis of her political science degree, her minor in French, involvement with the Model International Organization and support from professors Emile Sahliyeh and Milan Reban for launching her career.

"UNT really gave me an introduction to the entire world," she says.