March 10, 2009

Human Rights approved as first independent minor; available for class of 2009

The Human Rights Program, which previously offered no undergraduate certification, will now grant a minor to eligible students. Five courses will be required to complete the minor, including two of the three Human Rights core courses and three classes from either the Human Rights core or an upper-level Human Rights course.

“An interdisciplinary approach to Human Rights is a part of a liberal arts education. This helps students become global citizens,” said Susan Gzesh (A.B. ’72), executive director of the Human Rights Program and a senior lecturer in the College.

The minor was proposed two years ago, but the College Council, a representative body of University faculty, was not sure “whether they wanted to include a minor not attached to majors,” Gzesh said. When the Council decided to approve independent minors, Human Rights was one of the first added, as it had “substantial faculty support and a lot of student interest.”

Gzesh said the Human Rights minor can supplement any course of study. She recently met with three fourth-year students interested in the minor: a Latin American Studies major, an International Studies major, and a Biology major, representing the variety of students working with human rights. “It’s what we envisioned for the program,” she said.

The minor can serve as the basis for a variety of careers, Gzesh said, including medicine, education, law, governmental service, or advocacy through filmmaking or journalism. “It will help bring students’ resumes to the top of the pile,” she said.

The Human Rights program has sponsored over 200 undergraduate and graduate students’ summer internships around the world. The program also brings speakers to campus, including professors and human rights activists. The minor offers classes ranging from the theoretical, with Human Rights: Alien and Citizen, to more practical courses, such as Health Care and Human Rights.

“It’s terrific that the College is offering students the opportunity to study abroad…[to] have experience outside of the college,” Gzesh said. “I was in the class of ‘72 here and you had to drop out of school to do those things then.”