Investigate the historical and social contexts of human rights movements, including the roles of culture, identity, political economy, and international law in four different countries.
Learn how grassroots activists, individuals, and communities are giving meaning to human rights movements at the local level.
Go beyond the halls of power at the United Nations (or the UN establishment) and live in community with others, reflecting on how to live, act, teach, and learn in ways that affirm human dignity, uproot oppression, and advance collective struggles for rights and justice.
Critically examine the United States’ relationship to human rights.
You’ll connect with bottom-up human rights movements working for immigrant rights and gender justice and against structural racism in New York City. You’ll also learn about human rights and journalism through a studio visit to Democracy Now.
Meet with activists and grassroots organizers in Kathmandu and visit an indigenous community in rural Nepal.
Learn from the experiences of refugees; meet with Parliament members; and see Petra and the Dead Sea in Jordan.
Spend time with feminist leaders, student activists, UN officials, and indigenous Mapuche communities in the Chilean Andes.
Conclude the program with a retreat near the oceanfront residence of poet and Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda.
Critical Global Issue of Study
Peace | Human Rights | Social Movements
Coursework in social sciences such as anthropology, history, economics, sociology, and/or political science. Humanities coursework (philosophy, religion, and/or ethics) is also recommended.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- The root causes that incite struggles for human rights in different locations
- The relationship between human rights, activism, and popular mobilization and the strategies of individual and collective action that are utilized to advance human rights in different locales
- How we as individuals can live, act, teach, and learn in ways that affirm human dignity, uproot oppression, and advance collective struggles for rights and justice.
- How the UN human rights framework came to be and the opportunities and challenges rights discourse poses for the actualization of human rights for all
- How the international “Human Rights” regime differs from and relates to the broad array of bottom-up “human rights” movements in existence today and throughout history
The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term. The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.
- Foundations and Frameworks of Human Rights – syllabus
- (HMRT3000 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- Taking the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and related international covenants as a point of departure, this course interrogates how civil, political, social, and economic rights are constructed, co-opted, and contested and how human rights are advanced and denied in the context of global politics and economics, the UN system, and international law. In doing so, the course foregrounds the praxis of global human rights regimes, critically examining disconnects between human rights in theory and practice as well as instances when human rights doctrine tangibly abets social change. Thematically, the course begins by critically analyzing the historical context that gave rise to the “Human Rights” establishment; history of the UN, creation of the UDHR, the splitting of the Covenants, and the development of concurrent human rights treaties and instruments. Next, the course examines the ways in which these international human rights doctrines map to the local contexts of Nepal, Jordan, and Chile, as expressed through contemporary human rights struggles in each site. This embeddedness, in the localized experiences of human rights praxis in three different locales, affords fertile opportunity for comparative analysis illuminating the tensions, opportunities, hypocrisies, limitations, and attainments of international human rights norms and instruments. In order to ground this course in the local specificities of human rights in practice, this course is taught by local faculty in each of the four program sites.
- Comparative Issues in Human Rights – syllabus
- (HMRT3500 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- Drawing from interdisciplinary lenses such as cultural and ethnic studies, gender and sexuality studies, and postcolonial scholarship, this course offers analytical tools to study the nature of oppression and dehumanization and the possibilities for human rights to shape humanizing alternatives. Through selected readings and focused discussions, this course critically considers how historical processes such as colonialism, development, globalization, and neoliberalism shape contemporary human rights governance and resistance. This course forefronts questions of power that underlie human rights practices, challenging students to situate themselves in relationship to global social inequalities. Through the course, students are encouraged to reflect on ways they can exercise individual and group agency to interrupt social inequities in the world around them. This course is taught by traveling faculty.
- The Role of Civil Society: Grassroots Movements and NGOs – syllabus
- (SDIS3320 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- The latter half of the twentieth-century gave rise to a large and diverse sector of civil society organizations working at multiple scales, utilizing a variety of approaches to achieve human rights–based change. Though the aims, intentions, and impact of these organizations is contested, the constellation of actors working toward human rights under the umbrella of civil society has become a defining feature of contemporary human rights practice. This course is designed to provide students with an understanding of the diverse configurations of these civil society organizations: NGOs, legal advocacy organizations, grassroots community-based organizations, social movement networks, etc., as well as familiarity with the differing strategies of change they employ. The course is tied together under the cross-cutting theme of struggles for women’s rights and gender justice. This course is taught by local faculty, each of whom are directly involved in struggles for gender equity through their work with civil society organizations. Course faculty draw from their experiences as advocates, grassroots organizers, and lawyers, utilizing different strategies of resistance to effect change. By experiencing firsthand a broad spectrum of civil society organizations within the sphere of women’s rights, students are challenged to come to their own conclusions on how to bridge the gap between human rights rhetoric and reality. This is a practicum course composed of classroom-based sessions with local faculty and field-based activities such as workshops, site visits, and guest lectures in each program site.
- Fieldwork Ethics and Comparative Research Methods – syllabus
- (ANTH3500 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- Research is a central tool in human rights praxis. Documenting and reflecting on violence, resistance, and imagination, it can support — if not drive — humanizing movements and transnational solidarity, unashamedly joining in projects of social justice. At the same time, it carries a dehumanizing potential. Research was and is also a central tool in imperialist projects; dividing the world into subjects and objects, into those who Know and those who are Known. This course holds both the humanizing and dehumanizing potentials of research in tension as it guides students through the theoretical, conceptual, and practical process for gathering, analyzing, and understanding their own primary research. The course is the foundation for a cumulative study project involving research in all three countries and culminating in a paper and presentation at the end of the semester. This course is taught by traveling faculty.
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
United States: New York City
The program launches in New York City in order to critically examine the United States’ relationship to human rights. New York City is an ideal launch site for the program, as it is home to many of the largest international human rights bodies, from the United Nations to Amnesty International. Visits to such agencies offer both historical perspectives on human rights and insights into the contemporary practice of human rights organizations internationally. The program also meets with a diversity of community organizers, city officials, and activists working to advance human rights causes in New York City, such as the right to housing, immigrant rights, anti-racism in the criminal justice system, workers’ rights, and LGBTQ rights.
The rich political history of Chile provides fertile ground for analyses of human rights struggles. After the end of the Pinochet dictatorship, a transition to democracy has been entwined with both the reconciliation of history and the continuation of neoliberal policies that make Chile a profoundly unequal society. You will spend the first half of your time in Chile in Santiago, where you will visit sites such as the Museum of Memory and Human Rights and Villa Grimaldi. You will also meet with feminist leaders, historians, student activists leading the cause for equal access to education, and officials from the UN and multiple NGOs. Then you will travel to the Mapuche territories of southern Chile, to farms in the Andes. You will be immersed in indigenous communities that negotiate the challenges of large-scale natural resource extraction, dam-building, and industrial agriculture, along with racial discrimination.
Nepal emerged in 2006 as a parliamentary democracy after a decade of armed conflict pitting Maoist rebels against a long-standing Hindu monarchy. It officially became a republic in 2008. The nation-building process has been long, and you will be exposed to its intricacies, from developing a viable constitution that guarantees equal rights in a multi-ethnic country to confrontations with impunity for wartime abuses, including enforced disappearances, rape, torture, and extrajudicial executions. In Kathmandu, you will meet with lawyers and activists who are working to ensure a more just future in Nepal. Your study will also extend to the complicated politics of the everyday. You will meet grassroots organizers for issues as wide-ranging as urban squatters’ rights, the precarious livelihoods of Tibetan refugees, the labor struggles of domestic workers, and the work of organizations working for LGBTQ rights. The program also spends one week on a rural excursion in the south of Nepal, visiting indigenous communities involved in struggles for land, resources, and political representation.
Jordan is a safe haven in the Middle East and, as such, is an appropriate locale to inquire into the array of human rights violations arising from geopolitical conflicts affecting the region. For decades, Jordan has received thousands of Palestinian, Iraqi, and Syrian refugees. The program probes the historical and contemporary origins of Jordan’s refugee populations by visiting with refugee communities and refugee-focused NGOs living and working both inside and outside refugee camps. The program also has a strong emphasis on gender rights, meeting with an array of scholars and women’s rights organizations with differing interpretations of Islamic feminism. During the program’s stay in Amman, you will meet with members of Parliament and international agencies such as the UN and get multi-layered perspectives on pathways utilized to enact human rights–based change. Additionally, you will go on excursions to historic sites such as Petra and the Dead Sea, and you will go camping in the desert sands of Wadi Rum.
Faculty and Staff
Faculty and Staff
The faculty/staff team shown on this page is a sample of the individuals who may lead your specific program. Faculty and coordinators are subject to change to accommodate each program’s unique schedule and locations.
Chris Westcott, MA, Program Director
Chris has a BA in environmental studies from Bates College and an MA in international educational development from Columbia University. He has extensive experience working with grassroots human rights NGOs and social change–oriented study abroad programs. Chris’s human rights work has focused predominately on the provision of economic, social, and cultural rights. He has worked on housing and workers’ rights campaigns with the Urban Justice Center and the Freelancers Union in New York City. He was a founding staff member of ENGAGE, where he worked in Thailand and the San Francisco Bay Area on trade justice campaigns affecting the economic rights of farmers and access to affordable medicines for people living with HIV/AIDS. Chris has worked with IHP, first as a traveling faculty member, then as a program manager, since 2012. Earlier, he worked for two years on CIEE Thailand’s study abroad program focusing on globalization and development. He has conducted ethnographic research on the land reform process in post-apartheid South Africa and has done participatory action research on housing rights and educational equity in New York City. He serves on the solidarity board of Community Voices Heard, an economic and racial justice organization based in New York.
Anna Gail Caunca, MA, Program Manager
Anna Gail holds a BS in psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an MA in intercultural service, leadership, and management from SIT Graduate Institute. She also received her licensure in secondary education (social studies), incorporating social justice in the classroom. Anna Gail has over ten years of experience working with youth and young adults as a volunteer manager, educator, residential life director, and traveling group facilitator. Building on her graduate studies in social justice and international education, Anna Gail worked with World Learning’s Youth Leadership and Peacebuilding Programs, facilitating workshops on current issues and youth activism with the Governor’s Institutes of Vermont and traveling with and supporting students through the LondonX and Iraqi Youth Leadership Program for two years. In 2013, she was the Trustees’ Fellow for the inaugural year of the IHP: Human Rights program. From 2010 to 2015, she lived in Wellington, New Zealand, where she worked in residential life at Victoria University of Wellington, developed pre-departure orientation and training for New Zealand educators attending the Yad Vashem Teaching Seminar in Israel, and supported human rights education with the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand. She is also active in Parenting for Social Justice Chats and Mother Up! Parents Exchange for Change.
Lucas Shapiro, Launch Coordinator
Lucas has been with IHP since 2014. After earning a degree in studies in social change from Ithaca College, Lucas moved to New York City to become the national organizer for a progressive youth and student organization and later worked as an organizer with a tenants’ rights nonprofit. He also served as senior organizer at Families United for Racial and Economic Equality, where he worked with members to fight for living-wage jobs, affordable housing, access to healthy food, and a seat at the table in shaping local development. He is a co-founder and collective member of Mayday Space—a center for arts, activism, and movement building located in Bushwick, Brooklyn. As a dual citizen, he also maintains connections with social movement organizations, family, and friends in Spain.
Yanik Shrestha, Country Coordinator, Nepal
Yanik is the director of Passage International, which facilitates experiential education and global understanding by creating opportunities for students to live and learn abroad. He has guided several treks in Nepal and India and has worked with study abroad programs since 2002. Yanik participated in the No Education: No Freedom, No Opportunity seminar in Germany on whether education should be liberalized. He was involved in an Antenna Foundation project—a dramatized TV series that raised issues on women’s rights and attempted to break taboos. He has been working in radio since 2005, first with a 24-hour commercial radio station and now with Revolution Radio, an online radio station. He is also a part of the hip-hop/slam poetry group Word Warriors.
Dema Al Oun, MA, Country Coordinator, Jordan
Dema received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in law from Jordan University. She is qualified in many aspects of both civil and criminal law within Jordan and has completed more than 35 training courses in legal issues, including several on the rights of children and women. She is also trained in international treaties and agreements pertaining to related human rights issues. Since 2004, she has volunteered at the National Center for Human Rights in Jordan. She is also a member of Talal Abu-Ghazala, a famous law firm in Jordan, and has spent two and a half years as a legal trainer. She has been with SIT since 2008 as homestay coordinator, country coordinator, and advisor for SIT students studying topics related to women, culture, and youth.
Carmen Luz Morales, Country Coordinator, Chile
Carmen holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Santiago and is a consultant at the Observatorio Ciudadano, a leading human rights organization based in Temuco, where she has conducted historical research on Mapuche communities and has coordinated international seminars and workshops to promote the defense of human rights of indigenous communities in Chile. She has worked at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington, DC, as a consultant at the Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression and has taught history courses in Chile and Spanish language and literature courses in France. She divides her time between Santiago and Valparaiso with her husband Matías and daughter Eloísa. She co-constructed the program’s Chile component at its inception in 2013.
Mabel Cobos, Country Coordinator, Chile
Mabel holds a BA in linguistics applied to translation from the University of Santiago of Chile, where she is working on her master’s thesis on solidarity economy in Ecuador. She holds a diploma in economic, social, and cultural rights and public policies from the Henry Dunant Foundation and is working on a diploma in memory, education, and human rights at the University of Chile. She has worked in translation (English and Japanese), interpreting, research, and education. She has been involved in different social and human rights advocacy organizations and is currently a member of the Migrant Action Movement, which defends and promotes the human rights of the migrant community in Chile, working for the equality of people in movement from all perspectives.
Evelyn Encalada Grez, PhD, Traveling Faculty
Born in Chile and based in Canada, Evelyn holds a PhD in social justice education from the University of Toronto and a master’s degree in political science and Latin American studies from York University. She has significant experience organizing with migrant farmworkers and export processing workers in Canada, Mexico, and Central America. Evelyn has shared her work in various venues, including the United Nations’ headquarters and Canada’s Parliament. She has published in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society and Citizenship Studies among other journals. She has taught as an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia.
Zohra Omar, MA, Trustee’s Fellow
Born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan, Zohrahas a BA in psychology with minors in sociology and education from the University of Pennsylvania and an MA in international educational development from Teachers College, Columbia University, with a concentration in peace education. At the age of 16, she organized an initiative to explore stereotypes, prejudice, and conflict between Indian and Pakistani youth. Over the past eight years, she has worked extensively with youth, teachers, and communities in diverse countries and in different capacities, including teaching, curriculum design, and project management. Zohra currently works at the National Ministry of Education of Colombia, managing a project in which schools work in pairs to share successful pedagogical and institutional practices and find solutions to challenges in teaching and learning processes.
The homestay is an integral part of the SIT experience. During your homestay, you’ll become a member of a local family, sharing meals with them, joining them for special occasions, talking with them in their language, and experiencing the host country through their eyes. Homestay placements are arranged by a local coordinator who carefully screens and approves each family. Students frequently cite the homestay as the highlight of their program. Read more about SIT homestays.
You will live with a host family for between two and four weeks at each program site except the US. Homestays are the primary form of accommodation on the program; other accommodations can include guest houses, hostels, dormitories, and/or small hotels.
Homestay families provide you with the opportunity to live as an integrated member of the host communities. In sharing daily life, conversations, family stories, celebrations, and community events, you will not only learn a tremendous amount, but also develop lasting friendships.
Family structures vary in every place. For example, the host family may include a single mother of two small children or a large extended family with many people coming and going all the time. Please bear in mind that the idea of what constitutes a “home” (i.e., the physical nature of the house) may be different from what you expect. You will need to be prepared to adapt to a new life with a new diet, a new schedule, new people, and possibly new priorities and expectations.
Country coordinators in each location arrange homestay placements. In most cases, students will be placed in homestays in pairs, with placements made to best accommodate health concerns, including allergies or dietary needs. You will not receive information about homestay families until you arrive in each country.
Positions recently held by alumni of this program include:
- Fellow at Amnesty International, New York, NY
- Employment specialist at International Rescue Committee, New York, NY
- Outreach coordinator at the Center for NYC Neighborhoods, New York, NY
- Executive director at Children and Youth First, Kathmandu, Nepal
Cost and Scholarships
Cost and Scholarships
SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.
SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding for the term during which they are studying with SIT. This award can be applied to any SIT program. Qualified students must complete the scholarship portion of their application. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.
Tuition: Not yet available.
The tuition fee covers the following program components:
- Content and logistics for field programs in New York City, Nepal, Jordan, and Chile
- Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
- Locally taught classes
- Foundations and Frameworks of Human Rights
- The Role of Civil Society
- Classes taught by traveling faculty
- Fieldwork Ethics and Comparative Research Methods
- Comparative Issues in Human Rights
- Locally taught classes
- Guest lectures and panel discussions
- Site visit hosts and facilitators
- Transportation to classroom spaces and daily program activities
- All educational excursions to locations such as Curerrehue, Chile, including all related travel costs
- Traveler’s health insurance throughout the entire program period
- Instructional materials
- Other direct program costs
Note: Break costs are not covered by program fees; students are responsible for this.
- Group travel during the program
- This travel includes all flights and a flight back to a city in the US at the conclusion of the program, arranged by our travel agent.
Room & Board: Not yet available.
The room and board fee covers the following program components:
- All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in all four countries, urban and rural stays, all excursions, and the final retreat. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.
- All homestays in Nepal, Jordan, and Chile
- All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend, or through the homestay.
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Contact A Former Student
Speak With An Admissions Counselor
These letters home are from previous terms. Site locations may vary from term to term.