Human Rights and Documentary Media Certificate



Human Rights and Documentary Media

About the Certificate

The 18-unit Graduate Certificate in Human Rights and Documentary Media integrates the study of documentary media production, outreach and impact with legal, historical, journalistic and other perspectives, and provides extensive opportunities for students to interact with professionals from around the globe.   

We work closely with a growing network of distinguished filmmakers, media activists and human rights media organizations including Skylight, WITNESS, New Day Films and nDigiDreams.  The certificate also draws on the interdisciplinary breadth of the Human Rights Practice Program, which has featured over 250 virtual guest lectures from 40 different countries just since its inception in 2018.  

To read more about the certificate, you can visit a February 2021 article in FILMMAKER MAGAZINE

Potential Students  

The Certificate Program will appeal to:

  1. students who have some documentary media background and would like to learn how documentary media can be used to advance human rights;
  2. human rights stakeholders, such as those currently working in non-governmental organizations that are interested in adding the ability to create documentary media to advance their causes;
  3. recent undergraduate students from the US and abroad with strong interests in social justice and human rights; and
  4. students graduating from other UA programs especially M.A. and Ph.D. students (in such fields as Anthropology, Public Health, Sociology, Development Practice, and Arid Lands) who will be interested In receiving focused training in human rights and documentary media. 

We anticipate that some students who finish this Certificate will stay in the program and pursue our 30 credit MA in Human Rights Practice. 

Read our student testimonials


Bringing together the expertise and innovative curricular offerings from the Graduate Program in Human Rights Practice (HRTS) and School of Theatre, Film, & Television in the College of Fine Arts, students will have the opportunity to work with expert faculty who operate in a broad range of disciplines and research worldwide issues.  Key faculty supporting this certificate include:

  • Bev Seckinger, Professor, School of Theatre, Film and Television
  • Lisa Molomot, Instructor, School of Theatre, Film, and Television
  • William Paul Simmons, Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies and Director of Online Graduate Programs in Human Rights Practice
  • Jacob Bricca, Associate Professor, School of Theatre, Film and Television
  • Mette Brogden, Assistant Professor of Practice and Program Manager, Online Graduate Programs in Human Rights Practice
  • Phyllis Taoua, Professor of French and Francophone Studies
  • Jeannine Relly, Associate Professor of Journalism
  • Celeste González de Bustamante, Associate Professor of Journalism
  • Marcela Vásquez-León, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Director of the Center for Latin American Studies
  • Kaitlin Murphy, Assistant Professor, Spanish and Portuguese
  • Amalia Mora, Manager, Consortium on Gender-Based Violence

Core Courses

15 credits of core courses will be required: 

FTV 544 – Documentary Production (3 Credits): Students will develop knowledge of contemporary documentary styles and production practices through screenings, readings, discussions, writing and production exercises; acquire or strengthen skills in camera, sound and editing; and apply these skills by creating or contributing to a media production that addresses a current human rights issue.
Provides an overview of human rights practice and activism. The first part of the course will focus on the history of human rights with an emphasis on the growth of international organizations for advancing human rights. Students will attain a firm understanding of the international human rights system, including international and regional human rights bodies. We will examine grassroots social movements and participatory approaches to human rights activism, including recent critiques of participatory human rights and development. The second part of the course focuses on critical skills needed to become effective human rights activists, including professional responsibility and ethics, interview skills and techniques, translating international norms into specific contexts, psychological issues such as trauma and memory, and various approaches to fieldwork.
Introduces students to the critical role played by first-person testimonies, especially of marginalized populations, in human rights work. We will consider how testimonies are used in a variety of media including official reports, documentaries, and published works. And, we will look at the strengths and potential pitfalls of using such testimonies. Key questions include: Where and how can human rights stakeholders' especially survivors and those marginalized in societies be listened to and heard? Should human rights regimes take extraordinary measures to listen to the voices of the marginalized? What does it mean to undertake justice for the marginalized in society? Will the voices of the marginalized be co-opted by existing power structures, thus rendering them even more marginalized?
Surveys current models for making and using documentary media in the service of human rights practice and activism. Interrogating concepts such as witness, testimony and evidence, historical memory, transmedia storytelling and convergence, strategic partnerships and impact campaigns, and emergent participatory frameworks, the course explores a variety of approaches to media production, exhibition, distribution and advocacy. We will interact with filmmakers and/or media activists in the field through video conferencing; explore media products such as films, websites and online tutorials; and complete critical and practical readings. Students will develop individual projects in consultation with the instructor.
HRTS 905 – Project in HRTS and Doc Media (3 Credits): Students will complete a project approved by their faculty advisor that addresses human rights and documentary media, and could take such forms as 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 given use of documentary media. 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.

Elective Course

3 Elective Credits from courses related to the students’ interests.  Most often these will be from courses offered in the HRTS program, but courses from other departments can be taken with approval from the director of the HRTS program.