Our Mission & History

Image is from the Human Right Here Campaign. Image is of a person standing outside. They are wearing a shirt with the text, "Human Right Here" on the shirt
2009 Human Right Here Campaign

Our Mission

Uniquely organized around joint faculty appointments made in partnership with the departments of Anthropology, Economics, History, Philosophy, Political Science, Sociology, and the Schools of Law and Business, the University of Connecticut Human Rights Institute currently runs one of the largest undergraduate majors and minors in human rights, offers a Graduate Certificate in Human Rights, and sponsors three thematic research clusters centered on health and human rights, humanitarianism and economic  and social rights.

As a university wide program, the Institute advances human rights teaching across all University of Connecticut colleges and schools and pursues novel and critical approaches to human rights scholarship and pedagogy. Our aim is to educate well-rounded scholars with an informed understanding of human rights, promote interdisciplinary scholarship and provide experiential learning for our students. The Institute encourages engaged discussion and academic research on the advantages and limitations of human rights discourse and practice. Our research programs demonstrate the Institute’s commitment to bridging disciplinary boundaries and providing a space for scholars and advocates to exchange knowledge and experience across areas of expertise.

History of Human Rights at the University of Connecticut

In 2001, the University of Connecticut designated human rights as a university priority. This was the culmination of a flourishing of human rights activities at the University in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Thomas J. Dodd Research Center was founded in 1995, housing the Nuremberg archives of former Nuremberg Executive Counsel and Connecticut Senator, Thomas J. Dodd. Since 2000, the University has hosted the Marsha Lilien Gladstein Visiting Professor of Human Rights that brings leading human rights scholars to the University campus to teach and give a public lecture on central developments in the field.

The Human Rights Institute was founded in 2003 by the Gladstein Professor of Human Rights, Richard A. Wilson in order to promote interdisciplinary research and teaching across the University. Since then nine joint faculty have been hired at the Institute to build the research profile of the Institute and to contribute to the growing undergraduate major and minor, and graduate certificate in human rights.

The University established a minor in Human Rights in 2001, and later an interdisciplinary major was launched in 2012 by the Human Rights Institute. UConn is the first public university in the United States to sponsor a major in human rights and now has one of the largest undergraduate programs in the country. The major has more than 130 students earning a degree in human rights, while also participating in internships throughout the world with leading human rights organizations. The Graduate Certificate in Human Rights, established in 2008, provides graduate students the opportunity to develop a competency in human rights theory and practice by taking courses taught by expert faculty from across UConn’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the NEAG School of Education, the School of Social Work and the School of Law.