University of Connecticut University of UC Title Fallback Connecticut

Awards and Fellowships

Human Rights Graduate Student Research Grant Competition

2016-2017 Human Rights Research Grant Competition

The Human Rights Institute announces the Human Rights Research Grant Competition for graduate students at the University of Connecticut. The objective of the competition is to support and promote research projects on human rights related questions.

Graduate Student Research Grant Competition Criteria

The funding competition is open to all JD, LLM, master’s and doctoral students in all disciplines from Storrs and the regional campuses.

Evaluation Criteria for Graduate Student Human Rights Research Grant Applications

1. Overall excellence of the proposed research project on human rights issues, understood broadly. Projects should make a significant contribution to ongoing scholarly and policy debates in the field of human rights.

2. Awards will prioritize primary research, including library research, fieldwork, interviewing, historical archival research, pilot studies, data collection and data set construction, etc. In exceptional cases we will consider summer fellowship requests, which would allow PhD students the time to make significant progress or complete their dissertations. Requests for funding for conference travel and seminar/course tuition (including language or methods training) will also be considered.

All proposals will be reviewed and ranked by a multidisciplinary review committee chaired by the Co- Director of the Human Rights Institute and comprised of members of the Gladstein Committee. The number of grants will depend on the number of applications ranked ‘excellent’ by the review panel.

Application format

Each application should include a project proposal which should be a maximum of three pages, an anticipated budget, CV, and letter of recommendation. All written materials should be double spaced and printed in 12-point, Times New Roman font with 1 inch standard margins.

The 3 page project proposal should include the following:

  • Intellectual Rationale: Please describe your reasoning for undertaking this research project and the impact you think believe your project will have on understandings of, and/or policies affecting, human rights.
  • Expected Project Outcomes: Describe what the expected outcome of your research project is should you receive these funds. That is, what will be produced with these funds?
  • Methodology: Explain how you will conduct your research. Be explicit in describing the types of methods employed and the advantage of using these particular methods.
  • Budget Narrative: The purpose of the budget narrative is to supplement the information provided in the anticipated budget document to demonstrate you have considered the costs associated with your research. The narrative is different from the spreadsheet in that rather than listing expected costs in dollars, the narrative explains the rationales for these expected costs.

You should submit your application via our online portal at:

Graduate student applications are also required to include a separate statement from their supervisor on how the funding will advance the applicant’s research, and a copy of the latest version of their CV. Please forward this link to your recommender for them to submit your letter electronically:

Application Deadline: November 10, 2017
If you have any questions please call 860-486-5393 or email

2015-2016 Human Rights Research Grant Recipients

Melanie Meinzer, PhD Candidate in Political Science
“Contested Consciousness: Foreign Aid and NGOs in Education”

Michael Rosino, PhD Student in Sociology
“Human Rights Discourse and Practice in U.S. Third Party Political Organizations”

My project focuses on third party political organizations in the United States that include support for human rights and the inclusion of marginalized social groups into the political process within their platforms. In particular, I want to understand how these political organizations in the United States talk about and understand human rights in their daily operations, documents, and deliberations and how the idea of political rights, that is, the rights to participation and inclusion in the political process and political life of a society, is actualized in their everyday social practices. I hope to illuminate the potential barriers and boundaries to full inclusion and participation in these contexts and methods of overcoming them. More broadly, this project will advance the overall engagement of political sociology with the topic of human rights and bring to light the specific political and social dynamics of human rights in the context of American political organizations. I will be performing archival research on third parties along with participant observation and semi-structured interviews with a third party political organization in the Northeastern United States.

Michelle San Pedro, PhD Student in Anthropology
“Clinical Encounters between Midwives and First-Time Expectant Mothers in Esteli, Nicaragua”

The 1979 United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women determined that countries have a human-rights obligation to guarantee access to timely, nondiscriminatory, and appropriate maternal health services. Nicaragua is a country that prioritizes healthcare during pregnancy and childbirth despite limited resources. Maternity homes, where rural women reside near urban hospitals in their final three weeks of pregnancy, are a primary way of providing poor women with equal access to trained birth attendants. My research uses life histories, participant observation, and semi-structured interviews to examine how this system affects pregnant women and their families. I will also explore the role of the state in the production of ideal citizens—competent healthcare workers, women as subjects, and supportive male partners—as well as the differences in expectations and goals between midwives and pregnant women. For this project, I will work with Centro Nicaraguense de los Derechos Humanos, a human-rights organization in Esteli that is a member of the International Federation of Human Rights. I will also coordinate prenatal care with a non-governmental organization, Juntos Adelante (Together Forward), to promote women’s reproductive rights. Five midwives will assist me with mapping residential villages.

Chriss Sneed, Sociology PhD Program, Feminist Studies Certificate
“Intersections of discourse regarding community, identity and activism”

As a Sociologist, I am interested in examining the intersections of Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality in relation to inequality in everyday life and on institutional levels. Additionally, I am concerned with the reproduction and legitimating process of knowledge-making and sharing, respectability, and power relations. My current research is a heavily qualitative approach to understanding the ways individual activists conceptualize their identity, and thus, social justice initiatives. Not only am I interested in their disruption of identity-based categories, but how they use these constructions to support rights-based claims on local, community, and on national levels.

Zareen Thomas, PhD Candidate in Anthropology
“Human Rights Mediation in Copenhagen, Denmark”

This anthropological investigation examines the ways in which non-profit organizations instrumentalize “culture” to mediate human rights and social justice discourses. By conducting ethnographic research with a youth organization in Copenhagen, Denmark that uses hip-hop, both locally and internationally, for democratic awareness-raising and youth empowerment, I seek to analyze the translation and dissemination of internationally-circulating ideologies about youth, human rights and citizenship. This project compliments research I have done with hip-hop artists and associations in Bolivia, and sheds lights on how states, organizations, and young people (re)configure and reproduce the rights, responsibilities and roles of youth.

Cathy Buerger, PhD Student in Department of Anthropology“Claiming the State: The Impact of Human Rights Education and Mobilization on Ghanaian Political Subjectivity”

Does participation in human rights education and mobilization impact an individual’s beliefs about democracy and the state? If so, how do these beliefs manifest themselves in behavioral changes, including the way that individuals advance claims and participate in local political processes? Through the use of ethnographic data collected during 12 months of fieldwork in two low-income communities in Accra, Ghana, my dissertation examines these questions.

In my project, I use a detailed qualitative case study of two communities that have been involved with several ongoing human rights campaigns related to community development. This case study illustrates that participation in human rights activities has had a number of lasting impacts on individual political beliefs and behaviors. In comparison to individuals who have never participated in human rights activities, human rights participants more frequently contact government officials such as Assembly Members and Members of Parliament and are more likely to take problems to the police as opposed to either personally taking revenge or taking the issue to a local authority figure like the chief. They also feel more strongly opposed to the system of political clientelism and are more likely to see corruption as a major concern in Ghana.

I plan to use the fellowship period to continue writing my dissertation, as well as to take a short trip to Boston to conduct research in the Africana Collection at Boston University.

Melanie Meinzer, Ph. D Student in Political Science
Contested Consciousness: Foreign Aid and NGOs in Education

Jordan Kiper, PhD Student in Department of Anthropology

This ethnographic research project explores contestations over the influence of nationalism and the divergent social memories of the Yugoslav Wars in post-conflict Serbia. By interviewing and surveying human rights investigators, prosecutors, journalists, veterans, and survivors of the Yugoslav Wars, this project seeks to provide the first evaluation of claims made by the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY). The most pertinent claims to be evaluated are the alleged impacts of nationalism on the culture and lives of Serbians and the influence of war propaganda on combatants. The project also documents the contested memories of nationalistic agendas, inflammatory messages, and incitement for conflict during the break-up of Yugoslavia. In so doing, it provides a critical examination of (1) the memories of nationalism, (2) historical and cultural factors that contribute to collective violence, and (3) contested narratives about war.

Angelina Reif, SJD candidate at Law School

The human rights research support enabled me to participate in the Advanced Course on Justiciability of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, held at the Institute for Human Rights in Turku, Finland. The course offered me the opportunity to engage deeply with existing institutionalized practices of interpretation and implementation of ESC rights as well as practical issues, such as effective strategies and the impact of adjudication. Moreover, it stood to benefit me to expand my knowledge of ESC rights litigation and jurisprudence, and thus enabled me to develop valuable skills and tools for carrying out the case analysis of my dissertation.

Caner Hazar, PhD Student in Sociology

Human Rights Activism in the Context of Political Islam: Opportunities and Constraints on Human Rights in Turkey

In recent years, there is increasing concern totalitarianism in Turkey despite important democratization steps occurring at the same time. Gezi Protests in Summer 2013 erupted in such a context. Understanding how Turkey’s political dynamics and restrictions on civil society affect human rights activism historically will help human rights scholars and activists understand the global negative trends in Muslim and non-Western contexts. The data for this study will be gathered using archives, semi-structured interviews, and participant observation. First, in order to document the social and historical contexts in which the human rights activism emerged, I will do archival research dating back to 1980. Second, in order to gain specific understanding of the human rights activism’s development and its areas of contention, I hope to conduct interviews with activists of prominent human rights associations. Thirdly, to document the complexity of activism and its positioning in Turkey, I hope to do participant observation in strategic meetings of human rights and human rights activists.

Jessica Hoag, Public Health
“Residential Segregation and Mortality in Connecticut: Quantifying the Association Using Individual- and Area-Based Measures”
This project examines residential segregation as a determinant of racial and socioeconomic disparities in cancer mortality. I aim to quantify various dimensions of racial residential segregation and income segregation in Connecticut, highlighting the role of spatial and social context in the epidemiology of cancer. A longitudinal, multilevel framework incorporating metropolitan, neighborhood, and individual-level data is applied to model the association.
Farhan Navid Yousaf
PhD candidate
Department of Sociology
The exploitation of human beings for the purpose of removal of organs is identified as trafficking under the “UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (2000).” While focusing on kidney trafficking in Pakistan, the objectives of this research are to explore: lived experiences of “donors” who are victims of kidney trafficking; response of key stakeholders to counter organ trafficking; and, an analysis of existing laws and policy pertaining to organ trafficking in Pakistan. Using human rights perspective, the study will not only add to the understanding of commodification and exploitation of human bodies and the parts of bodies, but it will also add to human rights scholarship by drawing attention to a little studied area.Christina Chiarelli-Helminiak, Social Work
Integrating Human Rights Learning in the Social Work Curriculum
The funding will support seven interviews with social work faculty at universities in the northeast region of the US. The research seeks to provide insight in how social work educators are adapting to new educational standards and what areas of social work education can be expanded to address the educational mandates related to human rights. As the integration of human rights in to social work education is a relatively new endeavor, areas for further study are anticipated, especially around foundational education, field education, and faculty development. The research is being conducted in partnership with Dr. Kathryn Libal, Assistant Professor, and Michele Eggers, Doctoral Student, at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work.Koyel Khan, Sociology
Education and Human Rights: an analysis of literacy efforts in West Bengal, IndiaThis study examines if growth in literacy rates is sufficient to indicate achievement of the basic human right to education. It conducts a critical assessment of literacy efforts in terms of its efficacy by looking not into the growth rate but mainly looking into whether these literacy efforts are successful in achieving its main purpose—empowering the people to improve their lives.
Maria I. Berger, Latin American and Caribbean Studies
“Migrant Women: The Subordination of Domestic Workers in Chile”
This grant will allow me to observe and familiarize myself with the communities and obtain information/data for my research thesis and advancing my studies in this field. Additionally, it will help understand the relationship of Mapuche and Peruvian and their subordination to Chilean women. I will investigate how Chilean women treat Peruvian women in the same spaces and the intersectionality of power, class and ethnicity from the perspective of human rights.
Rebecca Jacobs, Anthropology
“Selling Victimhood, Gaining a Voice”
With this project, I expect to develop new ideas on how testimonio converges with women’s economic development and empowerment, how the women have come to understand themselves as victims deserving of international aid, and how they construct their legitimacy for international audiences. I also intend to investigate how the trauma of their experiences in the war, and the ongoing omnipresence of post-conflict violence in their lives, has molded their expectations of daily life and their approaches to doing business.
Jordan Kiper, Anthropology
“Cultural Crises and Collective Violence: An Ethnographic Study of Serbian Veterans of the Yugoslav Wars”
This project undertakes ethnographic fieldwork among Serbian veterans of the Yugoslav Wars (1991-5) to understand the motivations for their participation in military campaigns and what historical and cultural factors influenced them. My research builds on the anthropology of war by drawing from theories and methodologies used by ethnographers who have undertaken fieldwork among perpetrators and former military personnel involved in historical cases of collective violence. By using these approaches to frame three contemporary hypotheses about collective violence, this project examines the degree to which war propaganda, economic deprivation, and political identity influenced Serbian military personnel of the Yugoslav Wars. These topics are important not only for the anthropology of war but also international law, social sciences, and policy-making. While observers have granted primary roles to the media, economic conditions, and political identity in fomenting collective violence, thus far theoretical and methodological difficulties have prevented researchers from directly examining the effects of these alleged factors in Serbia. Inspired by new developments in theory and ethnographic methods, the aim of this proposal is to contribute to the anthropology of war and human rights by investigating what influenced and motivated Serbian combatants to participate in fratricidal military campaigns that resulted in over 100,000 civilian casualties.
Roseanne Njiru, Sociology
“Crying for Justice”
This study proposes to document the conditions and lived experiences of women affected by the post-election violence in Kenya and who are still living in internally displaced persons’ camps. The conditions under which these women live constitute gender based violence and are a gross violation of their human rights. My hypothesis is that the living conditions in the camps and the gendered role expectations for these women further increase their vulnerability to gender based violence.
Angelina Reif, Law
“The Making of the Human Right to Adequate Food”
This grant will enable me to visit the archives of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in Rome, Italy, where I will access drafting materials of international human rights instruments in order to shed light onto how the right to food was formulated. I expect to gain insight in the decision-making process through examining primary materials on the coming into-force of international treaties, i.e., the change of wording of legal instruments in the course of the discussions, the compromises that were made, and the underlying arguments for and against certain positions.
Zareen Thomas, Anthropology
“Youth Media Production in Bogot, Colombia”
My project in Colombia will examine NGO discourses about rights, citizenship and activism, and how young people engage with such discourses. I aim to analyze how youth perform their citizen rights and responsibilities by engaging with promoted and globally mediated idioms such as hip-hop art and music. This will inform our understanding of how indigenous and Afro- Colombian youth engage with the politics of marginality and the ways that institutional actors aim to empower them. Through this project, I seek to highlight the processes of negotiation in representation as young people actively create and disseminate media about their identities, individual and cultural rights, and lived experiences.
Rachel Traficanti, History
“Congress and Human Rights Consciousness”
This study will evaluate the role Congress played in advancing human rights consciousness within American domestic politics. My research will analyze the various ways in which human rights concepts were turned into legislative and monitoring efforts, with a particular focus on the creation and development of the Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs.
Farhan Yousaf, Sociology
“Women Trafficking in Pakistan”
This study will highlight the social, political, and economic dimensions of the issue of women trafficking in Pakistan through human rights perspective. In this connection, the study at hand will be helpful in explaining the overlapping and often confusing relationship of human trafficking with migration and smuggling. The research may be significant in the way that it will also analyze some of the recent measures adopted by the Pakistan and other regional governments in South Asia to counter trafficking.
Issac Ampofo, International Studies
“The Formulation and Implementation of Policies in the Maternal Health Sector of Ghana,”
This project will address how public policies on health are formulated in Ghana, such that there is fair allocation of resources to the maternal health sector. Additionally, it will look into whether health care during maternity in Ghana is considered a basic right of a woman and if so, whether there are special concessions for such women to access health care.
Robert Allen Booth, Anthropology
“War Remembered: Museums and the Contestations of World War II Narratives.”
This project examines how past societal traumas are contested within four museums in Slovenia through addressing questions of how these museums address deeply divisive, traumatic topics in a manner that is not also divisive and potentially harmful.
Cathy Buerger, Anthropology
“The Impact of Religious and Political Identities on Legal Strategies in Ghana”
This study aims to consider the impact of religious and political identity on the process of claiming rights within a plural legal system. The study will be organized around two main themes: what influences where individuals choose to settle disputes and how individuals prioritize their multiple identity based group memberships in the context of justice.
Michele Eggers, Social Work
“Reproductive Health and Human Rights in Chile”
This project investigates the criminalization of abortion in Chile as a violation of the human rights of women. The study will focus on the nature of community-based responses to the economic, political, social, and legal inequalities that exist within the context of restrictive reproductive health policies.
Maria Fernanda Enriquez, Political Science
“The Right to Nature in Ecuador”
In 2008, Ecuadorians endorsed a new constitution, the first in the world that grants rights to nature. This study asks why the environmental movement developed a right to nature frame, and whether environmental human rights and rights to nature are inherently compatible or not.
Melissa Skye Kerr, Anthropology
“Assessing the Economic and Social Benefits of Carpet Weaving for Repatriated Afghan Refugee Women”
This project will determine whether repatriated refugee women working as carpet weaver achieve an increase in status due to carpet weaving activity. Additionally, it will consider whether there is the potential for negative outcomes for women when international programs encourage women to behave in ways that are not culturally legitimate in the eyes of the community.
Jennifer Willett, Social Work
“Environmental Injustice in Mombasa, Kenya”
The following study proposes continued development of knowledge on the intersection of human rights and environmental harm in Mombasa, Kenya. This study aims to tell the stories of individuals seeking environmental justice, allowing for fusion with their completed environmental science studies to enable a better understanding of the complex dynamics of environmental inequality.
Robert Allen Booth, Anthropology $2000
Ranita Ray, Sociology $2000
Shweta Majumdar, Sociology
Widowhood in Vrindavan, India – A Case of Gender Based Violence and Violation of Human Rights
Katharine Hawkins, Anthropology
Local Perceptions of International Human Rights Law
Malia Bajpai, Political Science
“International Human Rights Norms Internationalization and Implementation”
Kate Hawkins, Anthropology
“Evaluating Retributive Justice in Post Conflict Croatia”
Chaka Uzondu, Political Science
“Bellyful of Justice: Food Sovereignty and Human Rights”
Marisa Prosser, Anthropology
“Social boundaries and cultural identity in Costa Rica”
Laura (Kat) Burmeister, Anthropology
“Follow the Australian Indigenous Children: Social Justice in Education, Curriculum and Welfare”
Blaire O. Gagnon, Anthropology
“Federal Indian Policy, Art, and Economic and Cultural Rights”
Katharine B. Hawkins, Anthropology
“Revenge and Retribution in Response to Ethnic Cleansing in Croatia: A Preliminary Study”
Christine N. Newkirk, Anthropology
“Dignity and Domestic Care Work in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil”
Michael Rindge, History
“Cold War Organizers: The Chilean Labor Movement, the AFL-CIO, and the Globalization of Human Rights, 1964-1980”
Thomas Westerman, History
“Anglo-Saxons of the Western World”
Adam K. Kaloides, History
“Human Rights in South Africa: A Preliminary Appraisal”
Rebecca Aubrey, Political Science
“Human Rights Justice and Political Stability in Uruguay”
Natalie S. Wagner, UConn Law
“How Restorative Justice can be Implemented into the Criminal Justice System in Connecticut”
Michelle R. Kaufman, Psychology
“Sex Trafficing in Nepal: The Maoist Insurgency and Increased Risk for Girls and Women”
Patrick Heidkamp, Geography
“Credence Attributes, Alternative Trade, and Human Economic Rights: The Case of ‘Fair Trade’ Coffee”