Human Rights & Action Learning Community

Join the HRLAC to learn more about human rights and engage in community service projects with your peers.

HRALC learning community group photo

Our Mission

The Human Rights & Action Learning Community engages students through academic, experiential, and residential activities designed to enhance their understanding of social justice, diversity, and civic responsibility. In partnership with the Human Rights Institute and Community Outreach, we offer service experiences and immersion programs to provide practical forums that foster a greater understanding of individual values, community issues, and the principles necessary for active citizenship.

Eligibility

First-year and sophomore undergraduate students interested in human rights.

Because of my experience with EPOCH at the history department, I am much more comfortable with leading, organizing and presenting my own research. Furthermore, as a potential law student, I think the analytic traits I honed will help me tremendously in my post-graduate plans. Not to forget, that my experience with my mentor Dr. Fiona Vernal taught me to be comfortable in being confused about the procedure, and being unconventional and creative in the process of any work you are passionate about. I would recommend anyone who would like to work in the social sciences to definitely expose themselves to an internship opportunity during their undergraduate studies. Being my first internship, for me, working with EPOCH was certainly a memorable experience! 🙂

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Hi Everyone, Josie here for the last time!

I have completed my internship with Common Ground High School, Urban Farm and Environmental Education Center. It was such a privilege to work (in person!) at this non-profit organization and charter high school alongside my fellow interns, supervisors and students. It is known by now that I have acquired all of the necessary knowledge with regards to common farming practices, basic animal care and community-oriented engagement within the New Haven area.

However, the thing that seems to be the most prominent is that it is in fact possible to find work within a diverse environment and community-like setting that genuinely values the importance of recognizing, accepting and promoting the differences (racially, culturally, etc.), of others. Since having entered the “working world” from the moment I was eligible to be employed as a part-time and/or seasonal employee, I often felt that companies did not hold this kind of space for others. After working with Common Ground, I understand that I should not settle for anything less. Because of my experience with Common Ground, I am optimistic — and for that I could not be more grateful.

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Hi, all - Jenny here! I officially wrapped up my internship with The Education Project about 2-3 weeks ago and I am so grateful for this experience. Working with TEP has taught me so much about human rights, about working in a professional setting, and about myself. It is hard to say what the most important thing I have learned is but the one lesson that really stands out to me is the importance of taking initiative. Non-profit work can be draining and it can be very easy to lose motivation, especially in a volunteer-run organization as everyone has other responsibilities (jobs, school, etc.). However, all it takes is one new idea to boost everyone's morale. For example, as I was wrapping up my internship, the TEP administration team was rallying to plan a virtual event to kick off the school year. After a busy summer, this is just what the organization needed to get everyone on the same page again. Because of my experience at TEP, I have learned the value of going the extra mile - taking the time to think about how things could improve or come up with new ideas to try out, creating a plan for implementing these ideas, and working with your team to make them a reality. Progress is made in small, consistent efforts to be better and do more. Thanks for following along on my journey! #HRTS4291 #ServiceLearning #HRTSinAction ...

Hey everyone it’s Zoe checking in for the final time this summer. I can’t believe this course is ending and I’ll be starting my senior year next week! Because of my experience with Amnesty I’ve gotten to see what a career in human rights is like outside of UConn. It was intimidating to think about what life would be like after graduation since I’ve built such a strong network at UConn. Having the chance to operate in an organization and foster relationships outside of academia has been an invaluable and new experience. Learning about the scope and different avenues that human rights work offers has been really inspiring as I prepare for my postgrad education. My research with Amnesty highlighted the ways in which the US fails to incorporate human rights education which is something I definitely want to work on bettering in some capacity during my career (whatever that may be). The lack of accessibility to HRE and the failure to appropriately deliver that education to rural communities in the US has emphasized the need for more dynamic and inclusive programming. It also solidified how human rights was definitely the right major for me and how much I love working in this space!

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Because of my experience with SAR, I am much more interested in working on issues of academic freedom and working to free people from prison. Going forward, I want to prioritize this relatively unknown area of human rights, having seen firsthand just how destructive human rights violations in this area can be. #HRTS4291 #ServiceLearning ...

Because of my experience with The Education Project, I am more confident in challenging myself to other unfamiliar human rights experience in the future. The Education Project works to improve educational equity, so my internship was very focused on education access as a social issue. In moving forward with my human rights career, I want to seek out opportunities and jobs that allow me to work on a myriad of social issues and is perhaps a larger organization that focuses on more broad topics. I really valued my time working on educational equity, but I know there is so much learning to be had on other social issues and conversations to be had. After completing my internship, I feel more comfortable in entering in spaces that will challenge me to learn.

Over the course of my internship, I thought a lot about my future human rights work. At the start of my internship, I decided to begin journaling, which became a good way to check in with myself, as well as keep track of the progress I’ve been making. This picture shows the journal I used!
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Because of my experience with BHRRC, I have a far greater knowledge of the political and social climate in Central Asia and Eastern Europe and have a strong understanding of implications of underdevelopment/unsustainable development in the region. The degree to which abuses within the region are overlooked is shocking – personally reading through the constant stream makes you realize how widespread these problems are, and the individual loss behind each one.

After having studied current events in the region for the Summer, I have inadvertently built a working knowledge of EE/CA politics, geography, and culture. I think this knowledge can both help me in future positions/classes with a lens on that region, as well as to simply have a greater understanding of a region overlooked by many.

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Hi everyone, this is Lisette wrapping up with my experience at HRMI this summer :):
Because of my internship with HRMI, I am more experienced with practical application of human rights. I feel more confident in my human rights studies because I now know how to work in a human rights-based agency and feel my skills of networking and data analysis have improved greatly. This internship has taught me how to integrate myself into new environments and form collegial relationships in remote settings. I have also been able to work on a lot of projects that have been of interest to me and have helped in my ability to translate human rights data into writing. I'm very appreciative of the opportunity to have worked with such an amazing organization and hope everyone will take the opportunity check out HRMI and the work it does!!!
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Because of my experience with HRMI, I better understand the the unique challenges in quantifying human rights records, and how vital it is to have comprehensive and accurate data in this respect. If done properly, this data allows for better communication of important rights issues across the globe. #HRTSinaction #HRTS4291 #ServiceLearning ...

Make sure to communicate with a variety of employees at your placement, and not simply those within your specific department. For example, at BHRRC, each regional branch works largely independent of others (for example, the Eastern Europe/Central Asia branch did not need to interact with those working in other regions such as Africa or the Pacific). Despite not working directly with other regions, it becomes quickly clear how varied work can be between regions. For example, the primary "cause" of abuses in Central Asia is the extractives industry, leading to much of the research conducted in the branch to be relating to extractives. This differs widely with other regions, such as South America which focuses more largely on agriculture and deforestation. Communicating with experts in various subsets of human rights research can serve as a critical tool in planning out a future career.

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Hey y’all it’s Zoe from Amnesty here! If I could offer any advice to students looking to intern in the human rights field I would say be open to trying positions you wouldn’t normally imagine yourself in. If I’ve learned anything from both my time at UConn and my summer internship, it's that human rights work manifests itself in so many different ways. So, if you haven’t found your “niche” in the field, trying out different internships is a way for you to explore your options. I would also say know your values and your boundaries! Because of the breadth of human rights work, there are a lot of people who may have an approach that doesn’t align with your own set of ethics. Don’t let people disenfranchise your beliefs because you're new to the field. Of course, be open to new experiences and respect the opinions of those you work with, but if your gut is telling you what you're doing isn’t good for you, make sure you trust it.

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Hello everyone,
This is Lisette just giving some updates on my experience with HRMI. Some advice that I have for anyone looking to do an internship in the human rights field, or with HRMI itself, is to get involved with anything in the internship that you're interested in. If you're in a more relaxed internship like HRMI, make sure that you keep up to date on the projects that are going on and reach out to the people working on those projects, so that you can make meaningful contributions. Along with that is my second piece of advice which is to network! Talk with as many people in your organization as you can, whether it's virtually or in person because these interactions will provide you with connections, useful information, and colleagues that know and like you. #HRTS4291 #ServiceLearning #HRTSinAction
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After having spent several months working at BHRRC, I’ve began to realize the degree to which we can find human rights abuses in businesses throughout the world. We often contemplate the ethical implications of our shopping decisions — forced labor, sweatshops, and environmental degradation being some of the most commonly vocalised concerns. After spending months doing solely research on labor abuses, I have realised how pervasive abuses truly are in our globalized society. Stumbling onto harrowing accounts of abuse and poverty, I spend time following breadcrumbs, finding anonymous regional companies shrouded in shell corporations which then are linked to Western corporations. It is disheartening to see corporations headquartered in social democracies indirectly (and sometimes deliberately) committing despicable abuses and investing in government corruption in places a world away. It is just as upsetting that many horrendous stories that would make headlines if centred in Western democracies are instead washed away in tides of disregard for the global “other”. I’ve realised how critical organizations such as this one are in ensuring corporate accountability — even if just to demonstrate that at least someone is watching and recording abuses committed.

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I think the advice I would give to future human rights interns is to expect and appreciate unconventionality in research. It is certainly a strength. I have determined that I was very confused which direction is the right to pursue during this internship however, I now see that it is perhaps not a math calculation with one right answer. Choosing one way and proceeding forward brings you at very other interesting intersections in your research, and although you may be looking for something holistic; research does not need to encompass every single possibility. For example, I personally started out with collecting newspapers archives and census data, later to find the relevant information not in the former, but in trading cards which I found at the Connecticut historical society 🙂
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If the work of my project is compared through the lens of the UDHR, then it relates to various articles. For example, Article 1(right to equality) and Article 2 (right to discrimination) directly inspire the work behind showcasing the continued inequalities which African American still face today in an urban society. Areas which are denoted to this minority community are underfunded and systemically ignored to the point that many African-Americans do not share an equal opportunity to Life, liberty and personal security (Article 3). The children's education is especially undermined in Hartford in quality as nearby richer towns pull away much resources, determinately affecting the right of equal and fair education (Article 26), in my perspective. At large, my presentation aims to showcase the above inequalities in a categorized and comprehensive manner, in order to assert that the African-American community in Hartford and in this county is as equal in impunity before the law as is any other citizens (Article 7), and thus should be relieved of all mentioned discrimination.
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Based on my time at SAR, I would suggest that future interns. both at SAR and elsewhere, work really hard and try to connect with people at the NGO that you are interning with! Making a good impression and keeping in contact with people that you meet will be super helpful in the long run. #HRTS4291 #ServiceLearning #HRTSinAction ...

Hi Everyone, Josie here again!

Throughout my time at Common Ground, I have gained a plethora of knowledge and experience with regards to farming practices, animal care and community outreach. It is difficult to choose only one memorable moment when my colleagues and I learned and/or partook in something new each week.

However, if I had to choose one moment, I would like to recall the time when we visited Doreen’s Urban Scape Native Garden in New Hallville, CT. Doreen’s mission is to create a sharable space for folx within this under-served community.

#HRTS4291 #ServiceLearning #HRTSinAction
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Hi again - Jenny with The Education Project here! My most memorable moment during my internship is the first time I posted on the organization's Instagram account. One of my main responsibilities for the summer was revamping the organization's social media accounts. Thus, I spent a large part of my summer researching and brainstorming different ways to diversify the content being posted and make those accounts more interactive and appealing. Making that first post felt like a culmination of all of that hard (but fun) work! Since that first post, I have created and posted more content, reorganized the aesthetics of the various accounts, overseen Instagram takeovers, run giveaways, engaged with a number of different departments to get messages out to our followers, and created a Social Media Guide to be followed once my internship ends. This experience allowed me to get creative, work with digital media design tools like Canva, and gain marketing experience. I am very grateful for the skills I learned and developed throughout this experience. #HRTS4291 #ServiceLearning #HRTSinAction ...

Hey everyone, it’s Lucas again, back to talk about my time interning for The Education Project! The most memorable moment during my internship was applying for grants. Before this internship I had no experience grant writing, so this was a new experience that definitely took a lot of practice. Grant writing feels very similar to applying for a scholarship, except you are not talking about yourself haha. These last few weeks I have been working on two grants, that despite their few application questions, have been taking plenty of time! Working on these last few grants have been the most memorable parts of my internship because it is a new skill set for me and the ability to work diligently on these applications has showed how much I have learned aboutThe Education Project. Earlier in the summer when I began some preliminary work for grant writing, I had constant questions about the writing process, structure, and even just organizational questions relating to The Education Project. These last two grants I have been able to work more independently, which feels like a triumph compared to when I first started in May. Cheers to progress and growth!

Picture: the “cleaned” up part of my desk when I was working on my last two grants.

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Reflections from Past Members

Rich Garcia

“The Human Rights and Action Learning Community is the place that I consider my home here at UConn. I think that being in the LC has really allowed me to expand my thought process and really think about the issues that are affecting not only myself, but everyone around me as well.”

- Richard Garcia

“HRALC has done so much for me. I found my best friends, my passions, and because of it I have gotten the most out of my first two years at UConn.”

- Kristen Belisario

Kristen Belasario
Olivia Stevens

“This LC helped me step into college feeling confident and sure of myself. This group of people have helped make this transition much easier and I love the values we believe in as a community.”

- Olivia Stevens

“I would absolutely encourage incoming freshmen to join the HRALC! Sure it may seem like a lot of work at first, but it’s worth it. Especially for those who like want to make friends, care about human rights and like volunteering.”

—Simran Thakur

Simran Thakur

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