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Students act as representatives of a nongovernmental organization in a human rights simulation for Elizabeth Brundige's Summer Session course

Law professor offers international human rights course

Summer Session at Cornell is a well-known way for students to catch up or get ahead by earning credits before the fall and spring semesters, but many may not realize there are opportunities to take incredible classes offered only during the summer with top Cornell faculty.

One of these special courses is GOVT/LAW3887: International Human Rights in Theory and Practice, taught by Cornell Law School Clinical Professor of Law, Elizabeth Brundige.

This intensive course offered in two of the three three-week Summer Sessions (both online this year), invites students to think critically about international human rights by examining the successes, failures, and dilemmas that are posed. Students then use what they’ve learned by participating in interactive activities, including a simulation of a human rights investigation.

At the end of the course, student teams, acting as representatives of a nongovernmental organization, go “into the field” to conduct interviews. The students talk to a wide range of people (played by teaching assistants, law students, and participants from Professor Bruce Levitt’s prison and re-entry programs) to determine who was involved in committing the human violations, find witnesses, and talk to victims and survivors. The teams report their findings to the rest of the class, at a “joint NGO staff meeting.”

“Every student brings their own unique and valuable experiences and insights to the exercise,” says Brundige. “And, this year’s online format made the course open to more students across the world. It is exciting to teach a course in international human rights to students joining us from countries such as China, Côte d'Ivoire, Italy, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam, to name just a few.”

Shiloh Liu, a student from Taiwan who took the second session three-week course this year says, “This class made me realize the possibility of applying what I learned in the classroom and empowering underrepresented groups in the real world. Being a human rights advocate or working in related fields would definitely be rewarding.”

Adding to the diverse nature of the class is that it’s open to motivated high school students through Cornell’s Precollege Summer Program, a division of Cornell’s School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions.

Leo Glasgow, a high school student from New York City, says, he was excited to take the course as a Precollege student because he wants to fight racial injustice. “I’ve not only learned so much from Professor Brundige, I’ve learned so much from other students. There is so much diversity, not only nationally and ethnically, but also in opinion.”

As for one of the reasons Brundige enjoys teaching the course, she says, “It’s rewarding to see how students thoughtfully apply theory to practice as they take on the role of a human rights advocate. I hope students come away with confidence in their ideas and ability to work together with others to make a positive difference in the world around them.”

The deadline for visiting and high school students to apply for GOVT/LAW3887: International Human Rights in Theory and Practice this summer has passed, but Cornell undergrads can still enroll until July 13. The first day of class begins July 12.  

For more information on this course and other courses only offered during the summer, visit the Cornell University Summer Session roster.

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