Featured Story -
Human Rights Studies Minor
"It is essential to engage students from across the university in the sustained study of human rights." - Professor Debra DeLaet
This past fall, the Department of Political Science welcomed an exciting new addition to its curriculum: the Human Rights Studies minor. This 18-credit minor, which is open to Drake students of any major, aims to instruct students on ways in which they can support and advance global human rights movements through deep, localized engagement. Creation of the minor was spearheaded by Professor Debra DeLaet, whose inspiration for the program came from her strong commitment “to the academic study of human rights and to advocating for human rights globally.”
Professor DeLaet’s primary hope for the minor is that it will “educate students who will integrate human rights into their civic and professional lives.” Fortunately, student feedback suggests that the program has already begun to achieve this goal. Spencer Short, an International Relations major who transferred to Drake in the fall of 2020, credits the program for several of the academic and professional opportunities he has received thus far. After spending two years at a university with a relatively small political science program, Spencer “heard about the Human Rights minor, and that, matched with the fact that there is also a specific international relations track to be followed, solidified [his] decision to transfer [to Drake].”
When Spencer began telling potential employers about his new major and minor, an unexpected series of doors opened up before him, including one that led to the fulfillment of a long-held dream. As Spencer writes, “currently, I am set to work in Kosovo in the fall of 2022, the place I’ve wanted to work since I first visited in 2018. None of this would have been possible if it weren’t for the human rights minor.” Thus, even though the Human Rights Studies minor is very new, it is already having profound effects on Drake students.
Psychology major Steven Kenyon had similarly enthusiastic things to say about the minor. Steven, who began attending Drake in the fall of 2020, states that he “chose the Human Rights minor as someone who is heavily interested in the interpersonal and global climates as it pertains to one’s own ability within the world.”
In addition to believing that the program will help him with his pursuit of a career in forensic psychology, Steven also feels that the minor will benefit the general Drake community. As Steven writes, “classes and avenues of study that involve the better understanding of the world and its people… [are] much needed and welcomed.” Furthermore, through the Human Rights Studies minor, “Drake offers another portal to which one can better establish equal opportunity and representation within the world.” Therefore, Steven expects the minor to have far-reaching impacts on both the Drake community and the world beyond.
Anastazie Bukuru, who is an International Relations and Law, Politics, and Society double major, shares these expectations. Anastazie decided to take on the Human Rights minor because she believed it "would be a great opportunity to expand [her] knowledge of international human rights." Now, after having been in the program for a semester, she writes "this minor has been a great opportunity to familiarize myself with topics that I might encounter in Grad school. I would definitely recommend this [program] for anyone thinking of pursuing a law degree, for activists, and for individuals who intend to pursue a political career for the government." This testimony directly highlights a key strength of the Human Rights Studies minor: it is both accessible to and beneficial for students of all majors, backgrounds, and interests.
Moving forward, Professor DeLaet hopes that the Human Rights Studies minor will grow into a “vibrant program with strong enrollments that helps contribute to recruitment and retention of students and faculty representing diverse communities.” As the minor progresses into its second semester, the stories of Spencer, Steven, Anastazie, and other students like them suggest that this dream is well on its way to becoming a reality.