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Do you want rigorous interdisciplinary tools for understanding and engaging some of biggest challenges facing our world today? If so, the human rights major is for you.

Do you want to pursue meaningful change in the world?

The principles of human rights and dignity are central to the contemporary pursuit of justice and equality. Our program provides a comprehensive education in the theory and practice of human rights, grounded in interdisciplinary study. Our curriculum draws on law, philosophy, history, and public policy to give you the rigorous knowledge and skills to critically understand real-world issues. You'll learn from renowned faculty members who are experts in their fields and gain hands-on experience through internships, research projects, and field trips.

As a human rights major, you'll be well-prepared for a variety of career paths, including advocacy, policy-making, non-profit work, and more. Our graduates are equipped to work for organizations such as the United Nations, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other leading human rights organizations.

If you are interested in learning more about the Human Rights Major and how to apply, contact Professor Ben Laurence, Coordinator of Undergraduate Studies.

Program Requirements

To complete the Human Rights Major, students must take a total of 12 courses (1100 Credits):

  • International Human Rights Law and Practice
  • Human Rights Fieldwork
  • A foundational course in the Humanities
  • A foundational course in the Social Sciences
  • Six Electives (Four grouped in a stream)
  • A Two-quarter BA Thesis Workshop or Practice Capstone Workshop
  • Completion of either a human rights fieldwork experience.
  • Completion of a BA Thesis or Capstone Project.

International Human Rights Law and Practice

While our major is broadly humanistic, we believe that all majors should learn about the regime of international human rights law and the practice surrounding it. This course should be taken early in your study, ideally by the Winter Quarter of sophomore year, and no later than the Winter Quarter of junior year.

Human Rights Fieldwork Course

This course prepares students for human rights work on the ground. Students will learn about the ethics of human rights, trauma-informed research methods, interviewing techniques, and techniques for documenting human rights violations. This course is usually taken in the Winter Quarter of junior year, and should be taken before you complete your human rights fieldworks experience

Foundational Courses

Foundational courses introduce a disciplinary approach to the study of human rights. These courses are grouped in the humanities (Hum) or social sciences (Soc), and you must take one foundational course of each type. Ideally, you will take foundational courses relatively early in your major, perhaps during Year 2, before the bulk of your electives.


You must take 6 electives, 4 of which are grouped in a single stream. The streams group your elective work, encouraging you to take a deep dive into a cluster of thematically related courses. The streams include the following:

  • Theory: Courses that explores the theory of human rights
  • Crisis: Courses that explore pressing issues like the erosion of democracy or climate catastrophe
  • Context: Courses that understand human rights by putting them in context, whether it is national, regional, or historical.
  • Right to Have Rights (R2HR): Courses that explore new and emerging regimes of rights, as well as the exclusion from human rights.
  • Transition: Courses that explore transitional justice, truth and reconciliation, post-conflict regimes, historical memory, and memorialization.

You can find the course coding for electives on the “Courses” page here. You may email Ben Laurence with any further questions.

Fieldwork Experience

All Human Rights majors are required to complete a fieldwork or research experience that gives them hands-on experience in the field and allows them to make a real-world impact.

This experience usually takes the form of an internship with a human rights organization in the summer of your junior year, but it can also be satisfied in the summer after your sophomore year with a competitive Pozen Family Center Internship. Applications for the fieldwork experience are due early in the Autumn Quarter of junior year.

You will be matched with a host organization, receive support from Professor Gerson, the Director of Practice, and be mentored by the prior year’s cohort. After completing the internship, you will return to share your experience with the next cohort at the annual Internship Symposium. (If you cannot attend the symposium you must submit a written report instead.)

If you find yourself with an opportunity to participate in a human rights research project with a faculty member you may also petition to have this fulfill the requirement. For more information about the Fieldwork Experience requirement, please contact, Director of Practice, Pedro Gerson

BA Thesis and Capstone Project Tracks

In the Spring Quarter of Year 3, you must decide which of two tracks you will pursue in Year 4. You may either write a traditional BA Essay in human rights. Or you may apply to design and complete a human rights capstone project.

The BA essay involves finding a supervisor, ideally, someone with whom you have done coursework, who can advise you on an independent thesis research project on a human rights topic. You must secure an advisor in the Spring Quarter of year 3.

In the Autumn and Winter Quarter of year 4 you enroll in the BA Essay Workshop, which meets every other week. It is 0 credits in Autumn Quarter, and 100 credits in Winter Quarter. The workshop exists to support you in your writing process, and you will workshop your developing thesis with your peers and the preceptor. This track culminates in the submission of a written thesis in the Spring Quarter, and the opportunity to present your research at the Human Rights BA Thesis Symposium!

The capstone project track involves designing and executing a worldly human rights intervention. Capstone projects might involve an advocacy campaign on a particular issue, the development of training modules on human rights topics, the production of art installations to raise consciousness of human rights issues, or the production of podcast episodes on a human rights topic. If you are interested in pursuing this track, you must submit an application at the start of Spring Quarter year 3. (Download the application, then email it to Pedro Gerson.) If your project is approved, you must enroll in the Capstone Practice Workshop in year 4, which meets every other week, and is 0 credits in Autumn Quarter, and 100 credits in Winter Quarter.


Summary By Year

Here is an ideal course through major, broken down by year. Keep in mind that not everyone’s pathway through the major will look like this.

Year 2: 

  • International Human Rights Law and Practice
  • Foundation (Hum)
  • Foundation (Soc)
  • 1 Elective

Year 3:

  • Human Rights Fieldwork
  • 3 Electives
  • Human Rights Fieldwork Experience (Over Summer Quarter)

Year 4:

  • 2 Electives
  • BA Essay or Capstone Project Workshop