The Stanford Global Studies (SGS) Division and the WSD HANDA Center for Human Rights and International Justice recently launched the new human rights minor.
The minor requires the gateway course HUMRTS 101: “Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives on Human Rights Theory and Practice,” one class from each of the three streams — Foundations, Contemporary Issues and Practice, which are in departments such as history, philosophy and law — and a human rights capstone project.
The Handa Center, formerly the War Crimes Studies Center at UC Berkeley, arrived at Stanford in 2014 and was tasked with creating the new minor amidst interest from faculty and students.
“There’s an extraordinary amount of interest among undergraduates, graduate students and faculty in thinking about different dimensions of human rights, whether it’s in the context of issues of legal accountability, the history of the human rights architecture, human rights in political thought [or] the trauma of human rights [in the medical field],” said professor of political science Jeremy Weinstein, the Fisher Family Director of SGS.
The process of creating the new minor required lengthy consultations with faculty members from across the University, mostly in the School of Humanities and Sciences but also in other schools. There were also brainstorming sessions with a student advisory board, in which students would give concrete feedback on drafts of various proposals.
Christina Schiciano ’17, a member of the student advisory board, plans to declare the minor soon.
“Being able to group all of the other human rights-related classes I’ve taken under one minor is easier … to point to future employers or grad school or law school,” Schiciano said. “It’s a nice way to synthesize and to summarize all of the disparate classes I’ve taken and indicate my interest in human rights. Without that minor, it might be difficult to see what that pattern is.”
Another member of the board, Alina Utrata ’17, believes that the human rights minor is unique due to its emphasis on studying social values with regards to politics.
“When you study something like international relations or political science or history, you can get too entrenched in power politics,” Utrata said. “I’m thinking about World War II. We ask, ‘How did the great powers fight, what was the conflict, what’s going on?’ and you can get a little lost in what I feel is the most important issue, which is what is happening to people. Studying something from a human rights perspective really forces you to come to a reckoning of what your values [are].”
Schiciano notes that the minor will allow students to better engage with the Handa Center, which provides opportunities for students such as internships in the State Department or overseas.
“This is a nice way for the Handa Center to get more exposure on campus,” Schiciano said. “I think a big problem is that students would be really interested, but it’s sort of hard to get the word out about the Handa Center. Having the minor and being able to interact with [the faculty] through the introductory course and expressing interest in the minor will allow people to explore that interest in more depth.”
Julian Bava ’18, whose internship at a small international criminal law firm in The Hague in the Netherlands last summer was funded by the Handa Center, states that students from across the University can use the minor to develop their ambitions to change the world.
“While most people do gravitate towards subjects such as CS or other STEM fields, this minor will appeal to more than just your typical political science or international relations major because it is a purposely interdisciplinary minor,” Bava said. “[It] lets a CS major come in [who has] a passion for changing the world and changing lives.”
Penelope Van Tuyl, associate director of the Handa Center, hopes that the minor will encourage students to learn more about human rights and use the Handa Center as a resource.
“We’re really excited,” Tuyl said. “We’ve already had some students declaring the minor. We’re looking forward to meeting new students. We’re excited to use this minor as a way to grow the human rights community at Stanford.”
Contact Anne-Marie Hwang at amhwang ‘at’ stanford.edu.