Written by: 
Erin Cristales
Photography by: 
Ahna Hubnik

As a child, Tesa Hargis always scribbled the same two requests at the top of her Christmas wish list: snow and peace.

The Texas resident quickly realized snow was out of the question. But each year, world peace unfailingly retained its No. 1 position.

"Eventually, I realized I could not just ask,” Hargis says. “I had to help bring it about.”

Now she’s ready to do exactly that, thanks to a little help of her own. Hargis, a recent UNT graduate, is the recipient of a $45,500 Rotary Global Grant, which will help fund her postgraduate studies at University College London. The grant is provided by Rotary International District 5790, which includes 71 rotary clubs in Texas, including Hargis’ sponsoring club, the Grapevine Rotary Club. At University College London, Hargis will pursue a Master of Arts in human rights, a multifaceted program focusing on theoretical foundations and pragmatic applications. The Honors College student earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in international studies from UNT in December 2017.

Although she entered college with the intention of becoming a doctor, Hargis fell in love with global affairs after her advisor suggested an international relations course to help balance her schedule.

“I was immediately drawn to this world of history, politics and diplomatic relations,” Hargis says. “I then realized I could begin to have an impact by working in global affairs.”

Hargis says the Human Rights program at University College London will help her gain a thorough understanding of international human rights law in an effort to assist policy makers and foster support for conflict-affected populations. She is particularly concerned with bringing awareness to gaps in global inequality, whether those disparities are based on gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or political affiliation.

“I am convinced that by providing basic education to all children, people will enjoy more understanding and awareness of other peoples and garner the empathy to appreciate the basic human rights that all persons merit,” she says.

James Duban, associate dean for research and national scholarship in UNT’s Honors College and Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science, worked with Hargis throughout the Rotary Global Grant application process.

“Tesa is an exemplary student who is destined to make a significant difference in the quality of life on a global scale,” Duban says. “She has brought added distinction to herself and to UNT by garnering Rotary Global Grant distinction.”

Hargis, who is from Double Oak, is a 2014 graduate of Guyer High School. During her time at UNT, she interned at The Law Offices of Tim Powers and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security. She also interned at the U.S. House of Representatives as part of the North Texas in D.C. program overseen by Elizabeth With, vice president for student affairs. From January to March 2018, Hargis served as an intern at the U.S. Department of State’s London Embassy.

Ultimately, Hargis says, the opportunity afforded to her by the grant will help build the essential experience and expertise she needs to finally make her Christmas wish come true.

“Enforcing human rights standards globally is the key to attaining world peace and preventing conflict,” she says. “I remain convinced that change for the better is possible and probable.”

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