Events & Activities
As part of our commitment to help law students attain the knowledge and practical skills they need to work in the field of human rights, the Center organizes numerous events annually, including panel discussions, workshops, seminars, expert convenings, and more, that address a variety of issues. The Center serves as a human rights resource for the entire American University community, creating human rights community-building initiatives among main campus students and faculty designed to engage and inspire students to incorporate knowledge of and respect for human rights in their future careers. The Center seeks to impact and shape the global conversation around key human rights issues, creating forums for discussion to focus attention on emerging developments through conferences, workshops, seminars, and expert convenings.
This monthly series features faculty, staff, visiting scholar, and student speakers in a roundtable discussion that allows students to confront the dilemmas and issues that arise in connection with human rights, focusing on how acknowledgement of such critiques can help advocates better navigate the field with creativity and critical reflection.
Each semester, the Center hosts a series of introductory workshops on various intersections of human rights and international humanitarian law that are designed to educate and engage students about basic issues in the field. Past lectures include disability rights, human rights and business, environmental law, IHL, among others.
The Center holds a series of workshops designed to introduce students to the professional skills relevant to careers in human rights. Led by experienced practitioners in the field, the seminars allow participants to develop sector-specific skills and competencies prioritized by today’s human rights and public interest employers. Topics have included grant-writing, strategic communications, and program management.
The Center’s Student Advisory Board organizes a series of informal coffee hour conversations in conjunction with different student organizations, attracting AUWCL students and faculty who participate in thoughtful, robust conversations on a variety of human rights-related topics. Topics have included islamophobia, economic discrimination, movement lawyering, and climate change, among others.
The Center hosts “rapid response” events, creating space for discussion of immediate pressing human rights-related events as they are taking place: from a Ferguson Town Hall meeting held hours after the decision not to indict was announced, to an event on the Egyptian Revolution as Hosni Mubarak was stepping down, and, more recently, a teach-in on the implications of President Trump’s immigration ban a day after the executive order took effect.
The Human Rights Film Series, first organized in 2000 and co-sponsored with the Center for Media and Social Impact (CMSi) based at the School of Communication, showcases the power of film to educate and advocate about human rights. Each fall, AU screens four exceptional documentary films that exhibit excellence in filmmaking and explore a broad spectrum of human rights issues. Following each screening, the audience has the opportunity to engage filmmakers, human rights advocates, and AU faculty experts in discussion about the film and its issues.
The Center works with students and faculty across AU’s six colleges to create and implement human rights programming that cuts across disciplines, leveraging the university’s rich academic resources and the vitality of the university’s activist student body to create spaces for discussion of contemporary human rights issues. Among other events, the Center spearheaded AU’s first campus-wide conference on the Obama Administration and Human Rights, collaborating with more than 17 offices across the university to bring the event to fruition.
For nearly three decades, the Center has cultivated vibrant partnerships with colleagues across disciplines and departments, creating joint endeavors, such as a human rights defender speaker series with the Kay Spiritual Life Center; panel discussions around gender and justice issues in the Americas with the Center for Latino and Latin American Studies; mapping human rights opportunities at AU in conjunction with the Office of the Provost; and coordinating the Scholar Rescue Fund with faculty from the School of International Service.
The Center worked with teachers and students at the Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. to support the school’s international law and human rights education programming. Center staff and members of the Student Advisory Board serve as judges for TMA’s annual moot court competition. TMA high school students researched and wrote sections of an appellate brief and presented oral arguments on the legality of a drug testing policy. Center staff and students observed the presentations and provided feedback, as well as perspectives about working in human rights and international law. Center faculty and staff also served as guest lecturers for upper-level honors classes, leading interactive lessons on contemporary human rights issues, such as the rights of migrants.
In spring 2021, the Center celebrated its 30th Anniversary with a week-long series of events starting March 29 designed to commemorate the role the Center has played in developing and implementing cutting-edge human rights programming at AUWCL. Events featured discussions with renowned human rights experts, including disability rights advocate and former Special Advisor for International Disability Rights Judith Heumann and UN High Commission of Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, closed events exclusively for AUWCL students and alumni, and a social media campaign featuring Center faculty who will share how they Champion What Matters.Read more
On Friday, September 27 Professor Emeritus Herman Schwartz was recognized for his world-renowned legal legacy during “A Global Lawyer: A Symposium Celebrating the Contributions of Herman Schwartz to the Rule of Law.” Professor Schwartz’s distinguished career has focused attention on the cause of human rights, civil liberties, and the rule of law. From the UN to Helsinki Watch, and from Israel and Eastern Europe to the United States, his work on emerging democracies, constitutional reform, and rule of law has inspired a generation of students, scholars, and practitioners to engage in this important work. The day-long symposium was followed by a private dinner honoring Professor Schwartz, featuring U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In her remarks before the crowd of nearly 200 guests, Justice Ginsburg recalled many of the ways Professor Schwartz’s distinguished career has focused attention on human rights, civil liberties, and the rule of the law both in the U.S. and around the world. During the dinner, a congressional citation of merit was presented by Emeritus Professor and Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-Md).Read more