Curriculum: MA & Graduate Certificate in Human Rights Practice


Curriculum Description

Students will study cutting-edge issues through assigned readings, webinars, and the online participation of human rights practitioners from around the globe. Our curriculum includes unique online experiences such as virtual field trips, in-depth analyses of current human rights crises with input from actors on the ground, community-engaged projects, and incorporation of students’ current human rights work. Classes are designed to support the human rights work of NGOs, activists, government officials, and even current students. The curriculum will develop organically and collaboratively as faculty incorporate materials and assignments that address the interests and needs of enrolled students. We will solicit project ideas and participation opportunities from NGOs, government offices, academics, and activists. 

Recent courses have been incorporating the specific topical interests of students as well as the following:

  • violence again women
  • indigenous rights in international law
  • the human rights of LGBT persons
  • environmental justice and access to unspoiled resources
  • trauma and secondary trauma in human rights work
  • refugees and forced migration crises across the globe
  • reporting human rights crises
  • documentary filmmaking about human rights
  • struggles for effective government that protects human rights/freedom from corruption
  • grant writing and management to advance human rights organizations

The cumulative experience of working with a variety of human rights colleagues across the globe is intended to help students build and participate in a community-of-practice that continues after degree completion. Human rights practice is rewarding and often difficult; it is important to have colleagues with whom it is “good to think.”

Completing the M.A. will also prepare students to undertake doctoral work in the future if they so choose. HRTS MA courses also can be used as electives in the Master's Program in Bilingual Journalism.

Required Courses

  • Human Rights Practice MA students complete HRTS 500, 501, 510, and 909 (Capstone)
  • Human Rights Practice Certificate students complete HRTS 500 and either 501 or 510 
  • Certificate students have the option to include an emphasis on human rights in Eurasia. In this case, they would also take "HRTS/RSS 561: Human Rights in Eurasia." Likewise, one of their electives may be a course from RSS (Russian and Slavic Studies).


Human Rights Practice MA students are required to complete HRTS 909: Capstone Courses. Instructor consent required for enrollment. Students will complete a project approved by their faculty advisor while engaged in one of two possible capstone courses: 

  • Applied Project in Human Rights addresses a human rights issue and could take the form of a community arts project and its documentation, a documentary film, a more traditional thesis or master’s paper, a research project completed with community members, or other substantial output for public dissemination. The Capstone Project should account for the social, political, cultural, and structural causes that go into the human rights issue being addressed. The project should evidence the student’s consideration of theoretical, socio-political, and ethical issues in working with marginalized groups and engaging communities. Students may choose to expand upon a project that has been initially undertaken in another course. This is a three-credit course offered by the faculty advisor(s) whose students are working on the Capstone. Students will meet online during the “class” to get feedback while the project is underway.
  • Human Rights Mentorship may be undertaken with a human rights practitioner who is engaged in a human rights effort of interest to the student.  The student will work directly with the practitioner and then write a process evaluation or other report reflecting on the experience.  Students must submit a proposal to their faculty advisor.  If a project is approved, faculty will work to match the student with an appropriate mentor.  


  • Human Rights Practice M.A. students complete 18 units of electives
  • Human Rights Practice Certificate students complete 6 units of electives

Human Rights Across Contexts

Professor Phyllis Taoua presents a curriculum investigating peaceful, non-violent protests in Africa that use cultural tools to promote democratic reform. This elective course exemplifies the variety of faculty and topics available to students enrolled in the Human Rights Practice program.