College Launches Human Rights Major in Partnership With Pozen Center

The major, available starting fall 2022, will expose students to the growing field through experiential learning and exploration into conceptual issues surrounding human rights.

By Austin Zeglis

Beginning in the 2022–23 academic year, the College will offer a human rights major in partnership with the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights.

The major, which expands on the existing human rights minor, will lead students through the practice and theory of human rights via an interdisciplinary program that builds upon the minor by requiring four introductory foundational courses, six electives, and either a B.A. thesis or a capstone project.

According to Ben Laurence, associate instructional professor and director of undergraduate studies in human rights, the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights created the major to capitalize on the high participation in the minor among College students. “It’s the largest minor in the Social Sciences Division. We think the interest from students is there and that the center is ready to take the next step forward in deepening its engagement with the College,'' Laurence told The Maroon.

Students will be able to complete either a standard B.A. thesis track or a capstone project track, which offers students the chance to engage in fieldwork by participating in human rights research projects during their fourth year. The Pozen Center will also fund field or research experience in a variety of fields for all students majoring in human rights.

“The rationale, from our end, is that the major will bring something new to the University that is not there,” Laurence said. “What’s really distinctive about the major is the way it provides a rigorous academic study of human rights in such a way that it’s connected with the politics and practice of the work of human rights—not as two separate things, but as two things that inform one another.”

Laurence sees the interdisciplinary nature of this new major as a natural step in the expansion of the College’s offerings into more and more cross-curricular fields.

“We’ve learned from the success of other majors that are interdisciplinary that have broken the mold where every major was simply a department, from global studies to Law, Letters, and Society, and so on. We see this explosion of majors that break that mold and we’re following in their footsteps.”

Since the 2022–23 academic year is the first year that the major will be available, any students who are graduating in spring quarter 2023 or earlier who wish to major in human rights will be able to have their field research requirement waived.

More information about the specific academic requirements for the human rights major can be found here. All students interested in the human rights major should contact Laurence at benlaurence@uchicago.edu.