Nathan Madson


Bachelor of Arts 2008, International Affairs


Nathan Madson is currently a Ph.D. candidate (ABD) in Cultural Anthropology at New York University. His research on legal anthropology and queer activism in Hong Kong builds on his experience as a human rights lawyer (University of Minnesota 2011). He also founded a non-profit organization that provided legal services to the queer community in Minneapolis, worked as a legal blog writer for Thomson Reuters, and has volunteered at a number of human rights organizations.


What excites you about the work you do? I am excited about the intersection of law, activism, and culture. I am interested in working out the connections between these various systems, and the ways in which we might better understand how human rights matter to individual activists fighting for LGBT equality.


What is the most significant career experience you've had so far, and what made it meaningful to you? My most significant experience has been starting a queer legal services organization with two of my colleagues. I was immensely privileged to receive the education that I did, and I wanted to make sure that I was able to use that privilege to assist the members of my community that did not otherwise have access to legal help. Furthermore, I was able to work with members of the queer community who were often underrepresented by mainstream LGBT organizations--trans people, queer people of color, and queer people experiencing poverty.


How did GWU and the UHP prepare you for your professional journey? In what ways has your career evolved since you graduated from GWU? GWU and UHP opened doors to further education and a greater appreciation for giving back to my community. In particular, the Shapiro Public Service Award I received to work with the Center for Victims of Torture encouraged me to pursue a career in public service. GWU also gave me a solid grounding in Chinese, which has been critical in the evolution of my career and academic interests.


Advice for current UHP students: Be open to change and failure. You may have a plan for the next five, ten, fifteen years of your life, but it is important to recognize when that plan needs to change. Whether it is because you no longer have interest in your plan or you failed to reach one of the steps, being open and flexible allows you to move forward instead of floundering.