Human Rights Graduate Research Forum

February 8, March 8, & April 12, 2023
The Dodd Center for Human Rights Lounge

About the Forum:

The Human Rights Graduate Research Forum provides an opportunity for graduate students in any discipline or school doing human rights-related work to receive feedback from peers and faculty in an informal and supportive environment. These forums occur once per month during the academic year. Each session is split between the student researcher's presentation and time reserved for questions and feedback.

We welcome graduate students and faculty from any discipline or school to attend. UConn graduate students doing human rights-related work are encouraged to sign up to discuss their work in a future forum.


Join us!

This series will be hosted in-person, no registration is necessary.

All sessions will take place in the lounge of The Dodd Center for Human Rights.


Global Labor Rights Enforcement in Small and Medium-Sized Textile Firms
Wednesday, February 8, 2023 | 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
Imge Akaslan

SMEs, enterprises that have 10 to 250 employees, account for two-thirds of all jobs worldwide, yet this significant segment of the global supply chain is heavily under-researched in contemporary scholarship on labor rights and policy approaches to labor rights protection often overlook their unique challenges. Through the in-depth study of SMEs in the Turkish textile industry, this project both advances our understanding of how small enterprises function, and also identifies new actors which influence variation in the enforcement of labor rights standards. Omitting SMEs as an entity leads to underestimation of some subset of actors’ role on enforcement of labor rights. Therefore, one of the main goals of this dissertation is to understand how intermediary actors influence the translation of labor rights norms into labor rights standards. By understanding the incentives of possible translators, we can then shape those incentives to influence the behavior of those translators and potentially improve labor standards in global supply chains. Ultimately, my findings will inform policy dialogues and advocacy efforts aimed at enhancing the human dignity of workers in global supply chains, no matter the size of the firm in which they work.

About Imge Akaslan

Imge AkaslanImge Akaslan is a PhD candidate at the University of Connecticut, Political Science Department. Her dissertation research examines the variation in the enforcement of labor standards in small and medium-sized enterprises and identifies new actors which influence the enforcement of labor standards in global supply chains.  Imge holds a BS in global and international affairs from Middle East Technical University (Turkey) and an MA in political science from Binghamton University (SUNY).

The Electric Vehicle Revolution: From a Human Rights Angle
Wednesday, March 8, 2023 | 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
Francesco Rouhana

Electric vehicles (EVs) have evolved rapidly owing to technological advancements and a growing interest in renewable energy to eliminate transportation’s dependency on fossil fuels and mitigate the effects of climate change. While EVs could revolutionize the transportation industry, they could jeopardize social equity and environmental stewardship efforts. Current studies on transportation electrification often fail to evaluate the EV revolution implications in human rights terms. International human rights law provides universally accepted norms, standards, baseline indicators, and modes of inquiry and reporting that could significantly advance and sharpen impact analysis. In this study, we explored the potential human rights implications that EVs pose for individuals and societies throughout their life cycle. Using the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights-based treaties as our baseline, we analyzed the existing and likely EVs’ impacts on human rights. We identified potential measures to address human rights violations. Stakeholders (governments, private sectors, civil society) need to work closely together to make the transition to low-carbon transportation more equitable and sustainable.


About Francesco Rouhana

Francesco Rouhana is a Ph.D. student in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Connecticut. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering and a master’s degree in Civil Engineering with a concentration in Transportation and Urban Planning from Notre Dame University – Louaize, Beirut, Lebanon. His research interests include the resilience of civil infrastructure systems, disaster risk reduction, response, and recovery.


Exclusion and Embrace: Secondary Refugee Students and A Pedagogy of Belonging 
Wednesday, April 12, 2023 | 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm
Sara Harvel

America has an identity problem. People in America experience degrees of political, social, and economic rights that affect the extent to which they feel included or excluded from the nation. Social and racial hierarchies exist in part because of our settler colonial history, immigration policies, and our narrow perception of who can be American. The problem of exclusion in America is highlighted in how people perceive refugees. Historically, policies and practices communicate a hierarchy of acceptance to refugees that complicates the degree to which they experience membership and belonging. This is especially true for refugee secondary students in public schools.
To refugee secondary students, schools are sites of socialization where they learn cultural norms while establishing a sense of personal identity in a new environment. To refugee secondary students, schools are structures, composed of individual people, that either extend membership or not. These schools can either reproduce social injustices and maintain status quo or push against structural inequities and promote belonging. Research has shown that peer acceptance is one of the most important factors contributing to refugee student sense of belonging. However, many students do not know how to interact with people who are different from themselves. Society needs students to interact and extend belonging to one another across differences, and schools need to teach students how to do it. This study explores the relationship between curriculum, instruction, and community in order to promote a pedagogy of belonging as measured by membership, relationship, and skills. Ultimately, this study may contribute to an analysis of school communities and the varying purposes of education. I also hope to contribute to conversations about migration and education.

About Sara Harvel

Sara HarvelSara Harvel is a doctoral candidate in the School of Education. Her focus is on Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on social studies education and human rights. She taught internationally in Qingdao, China for several years and also did NGO work on the Thai-Myanmar border, focusing on child advocacy and social entrepreneurship. Sara is a graduate assistant with the Neag School of Education and with Dodd Impact. She is interested in human rights education, refugee and immigrant school experiences, teacher education, and school communities.