October 18, 2007
Vol. 27 No. 3

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    Curriculum project scholars working toward exploration of new approaches to human rights in liberal arts education

    By William Harms
    News Office

    Faculty members from the University, Carleton College and Macalester College will gather at Chicago on Saturday, Oct. 20 to discuss how they can incorporate human rights topics into their courses and teaching.

    The scholars will convene for a conference on philosophical and theological approaches to human rights—one of four conferences that fall under the rubric of Chicago’s Human Rights Curriculum Development Project, a joint effort with Carleton College and Macalester College.

    “The central purpose of this project is to enhance theoretical and practical exploration of human rights within a liberal arts education. Neither type of engagement can be fully relevant and fruitful without the other, although in practice they are often separate fields,” said Michael Geyer, the Samuel N. Harper Professor in History and co-director of the curriculum project.

    The Human Rights Curriculum Project is supported by a $100,000 grant to the University from the Teagle Foundation, as part of its “Big Questions” initiative, designed to foster education that encourages liberal arts students to engage with the world.

    The Human Rights Curriculum Project also will include the development of a Web-based Human Rights Curriculum Resource Center, said Susan Gzesh, Director of the Human Rights Program at Chicago and co-director of the curriculum project. “We see the Web site as an ongoing source of ideas for liberal arts faculty around the country,” she said.

    Also participating in the Oct. 20 conference will be co-chair of the board of the Human Rights Program Martha Nussbaum, the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law & Ethics in the Law School, Philosophy and the Divinity School, who will present the paper, “Capabilities As Fundamental Entitlements: Sen and Social Justice,” and Alison Boden, Dean of Religious Life and the Chapel at Princeton University and formerly Dean of Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, who will present the paper, “Theological Perspectives on Human Rights.”

    Other Chicago faculty members who will participate are Jessica Cattelino, Assistant Professor in Anthropology and the College; Braden Cormack, Associate Professor in English Language & Literature and the College; John Kelly, Chair of Anthropology and Professor in Anthropology and the College; Julie Saville, Associate Professor in History and the College; and James Sparrow, Assistant Professor in History and the College. Also, Babafemi Akinrinade, Postdoctoral Instructor in the Human Rights Program, will present a syllabus workshop.

    The Human Rights Curriculum Project participants will convene in Winter Quarter at Chicago and again at Macalester in the spring for their final conference.

    The goal of the University’s Human Rights Program is to provide Chicago students with a deeper insight into the principles and language of human rights, and to prepare them as global citizens and for careers as scholars, lawyers, artists, physicians and activists. In the past decade, Chicago faculty members have developed an innovative set of human rights courses based in the liberal arts. The award from the Teagle Foundation to create the curriculum project recognizes Chicago’s leadership.

    Currently, the University’s Human Rights Program curriculum offers College, graduate and professional students a core sequence in Philosophy, History and Contemporary Issues in Human Rights, as well as six to eight additional courses per year that present human rights topics from a variety of disciplinary, thematic or regional perspectives.

    The Chicago Human Rights Program also sponsors a workshop, events that bring human rights activists and scholars to campus and 30 to 35 summer internships for Chicago students (see the Chronicle Calendar for scheduled sessions of the Human Rights Program’s “Report Back” panel discussions, in which former student interns will share information about their human rights work throughout the summer).

    In the spring, the Human Rights Program will mark its 10th anniversary with a weekend celebration for alumni and the second annual Robert Kirschner Memorial Lecture. More information on the Human Rights Program is at http://humanrights.uchicago.edu.