Humphrey School News—October 8, 2015

New University of Minnesota Degree Program Will Train the Next Generation of Human Rights Leaders

Minneapolis, MN (10/8/15)—From the plight of Syrian refugees crossing Europe to the battle against human trafficking in Minnesota, issues of human rights span the globe and are highlighted daily by news headlines. Now a new graduate degree program at the University of Minnesota will prepare students to address these complex challenges, working as human rights professionals engaged in research, policy analysis, and advocacy. The Master of Human Rights degree program—approved by the Minnesota Board of Regents in September and jointly supported by the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and the College of Liberal Arts (CLA)—builds on the University of Minnesota’s extraordinary tradition of scholarship, service, and training in human rights.

Humphrey School Dean Eric Schwartz says, “The new Master of Human Rights degree program will provide leaders of tomorrow with the tools to achieve the noble objective of improving the well-being of citizens around the world. Human rights challenges are very complex, and graduates of the program will be prepared to develop innovative responses that require expertise in policy making and advocacy.”

The interdisciplinary program combines the highly regarded offerings of the University’s graduate minor in human rights with faculty expertise ranging from nongovernmental organization (NGO) management to critical human rights studies to global public policy. In addition to coursework, students will gain real-world experience through internships and capstone projects with local, national, or international human rights organizations that teach them to apply strategic approaches to global and local human rights issues.

“This master's program is designed to fit the interests of students who wish to engage on human rights from many different points of entry and offers a great chance to complement their knowledge with new skills and perspectives,” says Barbara Frey, director of the University’s Human Rights Program at the College of Liberal Arts. "Minnesota is a terrific place to study human rights, given the depth of experience here among scholars and practitioners."  

Faculty and staff leading the program are deeply engaged in human rights work around the world and bring to the program substantial experience in public policy, international affairs, and human rights analysis. Mary Curtin, program coordinator and diplomat-in-residence at the Humphrey School, is a former career U.S. diplomat, having served 25 years as U.S. Department of State Foreign Service officer. Frey’s experiences include multiple advisory positions with the United Nations, leadership of human rights organizations, and scholarly and teaching activities at the University and elsewhere.

Students may apply this fall to enter the program beginning fall 2016. The program requires core coursework in international human rights law and human rights advocacy and policy, and offers additional instruction in methods and management, policy analysis, economics, and critical thinking.

For more information, visit

Photo: The families of victims of enforced disappearance hold a weekly sit-in protest in Taksim Park in Istanbul, Turkey, holding signs with the names and photos of their loved ones. Photo © Electra-K-Vasileiadou

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