Our interdisciplinary program in Human Rights is committed to the integration of human rights theory and practice. Our student’s academic development is honed by exposure to diverse, cutting-edge research in the classroom, and broadened through participation in experiential learning opportunities in the community. Our joint focus on the academic study, and the practical applications of human rights produces competitive scholars with advanced critical-thinking and problem-solving skills that are an invaluable asset to their future endeavors.

  • Human Rights majors can choose to complete either a senior thesis or an internship to satisfy their capstone requirement.
  • Human Rights minors must complete an internship to satisfy their capstone requirement.

For more information about each of these options, please refer to the appropriate section below.


Completing a senior thesis gives students firsthand experience developing and executing cutting edge research projects with the oversight of a research mentor. Writing a senior thesis will deepen students’ knowledge and understanding of contemporary challenges to the protection and realization of human rights, and of the unique challenges in conducting human rights research. This experience will help students develop strong professional relationships with faculty members learn how to execute a multi-phase research project, and is a great way to prepare for graduate level coursework and training.


Students are expected to produce a research paper of publishable quality. The research project should center on a human rights issue, and explicitly adopt a human rights framework. The project should be supervised by a faculty member that has experience doing human rights research. While the supervisor does not need to be an official affiliate of the Human Rights Institute, this is a good place to start looking for potential thesis supervisors: Affiliated Faculty, Joint Faculty.

The thesis project will necessarily reflect the dominant norms and research style of the discipline you have trained in. Accordingly, the Human Rights Institute believes that the expectations for your project should be determined by your research supervisor. The student and supervisor should set expectations for the length of the thesis, the mode of analysis, the timeline for completion, and the assessment of the students’ progress in advance.

Lastly, HRTS 4996W the W course requirement for the major. Thesis supervisors should observe university standards for W courses when structuring and assessing students’ written work.

Suggested Timeline

Students interested in writing a senior thesis for Human Rights should begin to prepare for this process no later than the spring semester of their junior year.

Junior Year

  • Brainstorm Potential Thesis Ideas
    • Come up with a list of potential research topics/questions
    • Meet with professors/advisors to get feedback on research ideas
    • Create a one-page Statement of Problem:
      • What is your research topic/question?
      • How does this question relate to other research done on this topic?
      • What is the significance of this question? Why is it important?
    • Create a short Annotated Bibliography:
      • Choose at least 5 texts that you think will help shape your project
      • Construct a short paragraph for each text that summarizes the topic of the text and its major findings, and how you think it will be used in your project.
    • Cultivate professional relationships with potential thesis supervisors
      • Research faculty members who have experience with this research area
      • Contact potential thesis supervisors to introduce yourself/your project
        • Have prepared: Resume, Statement of Problem, Writing Sample
      • Secure a faculty supervisor and thesis topic by the end of your Junior Year
  • Submit Human Rights Senior Thesis Declaration Form to César Abadía-Barrero at by the end of the Spring semester before senior year.

Senior Year

  • Enroll in HRTS 3299: Independent Study during the Fall semester
  • Enroll in HRTS 4996W: Senior Thesis during the Spring semester

The student and research supervisor should work together to determine how the student will advance their project through each semester of work, and how their work will be assessed throughout each semester.

  1. Secure a faculty supervisor and research topic by the end of junior year.
  2. Submit Human Rights Senior Thesis Declaration Form to César Abadía-Barrero at Dr. Abadía-Barrero will review your proposed project to ensure it meets University Requirements, and then follow up with you directly to add the independent study and senior thesis courses to your faculty advisor’s schedule.
  3. At the end of each semester the student should submit a 1-2 page progress report to the Human Rights Institute that details how the project has evolved and how the project is progressing.
  4. Submit the thesis to the Human Rights Institute for our records upon completion.


Experiential learning opportunities are the cornerstone of our academic program; all Human Rights students must complete an internship as part of their program of study. Internships expose our young professionals to diverse applications of rights discourse, varied perspectives on the function and utility of the human rights enterprise, and to the realities of pursuing a career in the human rights field. These unique experiences  prepare students to be competitive in their chosen fields, and positively contribute to the evolving culture of human rights, both locally and internationally.

  • The placement will provide the learner with insights into the challenges of defending and promoting human rights
  • The student will complete at minimum 120 hours of work at their internship placement
  • Students will complete a reflective practice seminar (HRTS 4291, or the equivalent course in Education Abroad) concurrently with the internship.
    • Prerequisites: Instructor consent; nine credits of 2000-level or above HRTS courses (six of which may be taken concurrently).

Our Educational Program Coordinator, Alyssa Webb, or our Internship Coordinator, Rachel Jackson, are happy to discuss options for internship sites and the requirements.

Human rights minors and the majority of majors find internships through one of three paths:
Local Internships Database
Human Rights Institute Supported Internship Placements
Education Abroad

  1. Students should begin researching potential internships one semester prior to when they intend to complete their capstone.
    1. Recommended Resources:
      1. Internship Database
      2. HRI Instagram
    2. You are also encouraged to speak with one of our HRTS advisors via Nexus.
  2. Once you have discussed your duties and responsibilities with your internship supervisor, you should complete and submit the Learning Work Plan to Alyssa Webb to get a permission number to register for HRTS 4291.
  3. Attend HRTS 4291 class meetings and complete course assignments in accordance with course expectations.