D.C. Human Rights Seminar

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Important Dates

May 8, 2024: Application deadline 

Mid-May: Application selection process and notification 

June 1st: Mandatory on-campus workshops (one full day, 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM)

September 8th – 13th:  Seminars and briefings in Washington, D.C. 

  • Participants must be available for the whole week. Meetings may start at 7:00 AM to accommodate guest speakers from D.C. Debriefings may end at 9:00 PM or later. 

December TBD: Policy research paper due 

December TBD: Poster presentation of your research at Human Rights Day event 

About the Program

Combine course work, field research, and professional experience to learn about United States human rights policy, its formation, articulation, and effects on countries and peoples around the world! 

The Washington, D.C., Human Rights Seminar is a part of the human rights emphasis in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences and has been part of the curriculum since 1990. Taught under course number BIS 403, it focuses on the construction of human rights policy at the national and international levels, with a particular emphasis on engaging with the policy-making process in Washington, D.C. 

Students selected for this seminar spend a week in the U.S. Capitol, meeting with legislators, federal agencies (such as the Department of Defense and the Department of State), human rights NGOs, foreign embassies, and think tanks to investigate human rights violations and possible policy responses.  

Upon return to Washington state, students will spend the remainder of the quarter developing a research paper and presentation on a topic of choice. The experience culminates with a presentation at Seattle Town Hall to share their research with the community and celebrate their hard work.

Program Fee

The program fee for participation in the D.C. Human Rights Seminar is $775, not including airfare. Expenses covered by the program fee include: 

  • Student housing for 6 nights 
  • Dinner in Washington, D.C. (Sunday – Wednesday) 
  • Orientation lunch and refreshments 
  • United States Holocaust Memorial Museum entrance fee 
  • 7-day Metro Card 

In addition to airfare transportation, students can expect to pay for the following items on their own: 

  • Breakfast and lunch on your own while in D.C. 
  • Dinner on your own while in D.C. (Thursday 9/12 and Friday 9/13 only) 
  • Souvenirs and personal expenses 

The cost of this program will be charged as a course fee upon registration in BIS 403 Washington D.C. Seminar on Human Rights. Students will register for this autumn course once notified of their selection for the program. The program fee is not due until the autumn quarter tuition deadline.  

Financial Aid Information

Financial aid for this course will not be distributed until the beginning of autumn quarter but will be available in time to cover the program fee. Students can submit a revision request to increase the amount of financial aid received for autumn quarter. These additional funds are usually awarded in the form of loans. To apply, fill out a Revision Request for Study Abroad/Exploration Seminar form.

Students will need to purchase airfare before autumn quarter begins and should plan accordingly. Many students take advantage of options like short-term loans through the Office of Student Financial Aid to help bridge this gap. 

Contact the Office of Student Financial Aid to explore options for additional funding that can be disbursed before the start of autumn quarter.  

Course Theme

Human rights have emerged in the last 60 years as a critical normative dimension of international politics and policy. This course will examine the underlying philosophical, political, and social assumptions of human rights, especially in the context of public policy in U.S. institutions.  Students will engage questions such as the following:  

  • What is the relationship between international human rights and domestic U.S. rights?  
  • Who are the main actors — governmental, non-governmental — who set human rights policy?  
  • What are the current issues that challenge the human rights agenda in U.S. domestic and foreign policy?   

Our approach will be interdisciplinary with an emphasis on how power is produced, distributed, and consumed within the policy process. Attention will also be given to the philosophical, historical, cultural, and economic aspects of human rights and the human rights movement in the modern era.  

This course satisfies the Interdisciplinary Practice and Reflection (IPR) requirement for IAS majors and will promote the analytical skills associated with original research in the policy process.  

The Instructor

Ron Krabill is a professor in the School of IAS, teaching across Human Rights, Media Studies, Cultural Studies, and African Studies, and he is the co-director of the UWB Global Scholars Program. He also teaches study abroad courses on the politics of soccer at the UW Center in León, Spain.  His research focuses on media and politics in South Africa, critical pedagogy in international education, and discourses of global citizenship and reciprocity in global collaborations. 

He holds a BA in Communication and Peace and Conflict Studies from Goshen College and an MA and PhD in Sociology and Historical Studies from the New School for Social Research. Professor Krabill is also on the Advisory Board of the UW Center for Human Rights, and he has been teaching in the Washington DC program since 2003.

The D.C. Experience

During their time in D.C., students will be engaged in intensive seminars and briefings with a variety of institutions and policy makers at a variety of levels.  

During the day we’ll walk and use Washington’s excellent subway system to visit places such as the Pentagon, the State Department, Congressional offices, and policy institutions of various political orientations. For example, we may attend briefings at institutions such as the Friends Committee on National Legislation (the “Quaker Lobby”), Amnesty International, the U.S. Institute of Peace, the Holocaust Memorial Museum, the United Nations, the Heritage Foundation, the Brookings Institution, and hear from a long and distinguished list of lobbyists and activists. 

The week is an intense group experience and students will need to be ready to focus and engage for the entire time. There will be very little spare time for sightseeing; it is strongly recommended that students who wish to do so extend their stay in the city.  

Students will reside in the University of California Washington Center, located six blocks from the White House. Called “UCDC,” the center offers state of the art facilities like high-speed internet and Wi-Fi.  

Going on the Washington, D.C. Human Rights Seminar completely changed me. Having the opportunity to meet with many different government officials to talk about current issues affecting the United States as well as other countries is something I will never forget. This experience led me to look at myself as a citizen in the United States, as well as my country as a whole, in a completely different way and has made me more passionate about public policy.  

I would do this program again in heartbeat if given the option because this is truly one of those experiences you walk away from as a completely different person. 

Heidi Hannah (’16, Global Studies)

The D.C. Impact

Since 1991, more than 500 students have participated in the D.C. Seminar, which is often referenced as one of their most formative learning experiences. Our D.C.  alumni include a civil rights lawyer, a health policy maker, an environmental justice activist, and racial equity leader. Learn how the D.C. Seminar has impacted their lives. 

Featured alumni

Morgan Mentzer (’04) is co-founder and executive director of Lavender Rights Project (LRP). LRP offers multiple services, including legal aid, mediation, information clinics, and actively participates in coalition-building that connects the queer and trans community to culturally competent legal service providers. 

Learn more about Morgan

Courtney McCurdy (’03) is the Refugee Program Consultant for North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services where she supports refugee agencies at a policy level after many years of direct service. Courtney aims to educate communities on who refugees are, where they come from, and the benefits they bring.

Learn more about Courtney

D.C. alumni – join the D.C. LinkedIn group to connect with other participants! 

More alumni stories

D.C. reunion

D.C. alumni reunited in 2015 to share memories and discover opportunities for collaboration, learning, and philanthropy. Guests enjoyed a special message from program founder Bob Schultz, an alumni slide show, and 25th birthday cake! The reunion also marked the launch of the Washington D.C. Seminar Travel Assistance Fund.

Check out reunion photos here!

Donate to the Washington, D.C., Travel Assistance Fund to support student participation in this program!