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A new kind of learning
The United Nations has long since been a symbol and supporter for human rights. So it’s only fitting that students were sent there to get a hands-on experience studying global human rights and ethics.
From Sept. 7 to Sept. 13, 11 Quinnipiac students participated in a human rights and global ethics seminar with students from universities all over the nation and spent a few nights at the UN. Other universities involved in the seminar include Yale University, Brown University, Rice University, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, University of Oregon, University of Southern California and Southern Connecticut State University.
The Oxford Human Rights Workshop Series helped all these colleges collaborate together at the UN to discuss human rights around the world with UN officials and professors from across the country. Quinnipiac was able to help host the trip for the first time ever and worked with other colleges in the seminar targeted for students interested in human rights.
Legal Studies Assistant Professor Sujata Gadkar-Wilcox organized the trip for the Quinnipiac students.
“It’s a different learning experience,” she said. “Leading scholars in the world were there and they understand how to talk and relate to students.”
Senior Aleksandar Petakov was one of the 11 students accepted for the Global Engagement Seminar.
“We were all walking around New York and the UN with a purpose,” Petakov said. “You’re doing something for the world and there’s this diplomatic air around the United Nations. I felt like I wasn’t just visiting [New York City], I was there for a reason.”
After the third day, all students involved—including non-Quinnipiac students—were invited to Hamden for the remainder of the seminar.
Dr. Hugo Slim of Oxford University presented about humanitarian ethics, while Dr. Nabeel Hamdi of Oxford Brookes University discussed his book on the importance of global action of ordinary citizens.
“We talked to so many scholars and UN officials and people you wouldn’t normally talk to,” Petakov said. “It was really cool to see everyone’s different interests. Everyone was from different academic and different cultural backgrounds and it was cool to see their different opinions.”
Students visited a refugee center called Iris in New Haven where they spoke one-on-one with the people there. Afterward, they went to the Albert Schweitzer Institute and tried to think of plans to better the lives of the refugees in some aspect.
“By the fifth day, the students incorporated everything we talked about like why the UN is important,” Gadkar-Wilcox said.
Students were able to take everything they learned and put everything together to create an action plan for the refugees.
Gadkar-Wilcox says she hopes the seminar continues every year in the fall. Prospective students only need to write a letter of interest and, once accepted, the entire trip is paid for, with the exception of a few meals.
Gadkar-Wilcox says anyone of any major was welcome to apply. This is the same for those who seek to apply to future trips to the UN.
“It’s very interdisciplinary,” Gadkar-Wilcox said. “There were grad and undergrad students [that participated] and students studying all kinds of majors.”
Those with diverse backgrounds and varying majors were accepted to participate in the trip. This helped those participating to “thoughtfully and critically engage with issues of global responsibility, international law and community action,” according to the Oxford Human Rights Workshop Series.
The most recent excursion selected students with majors in the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the School of Communications, the School of Nursing and the School of Law, according to Gadkar-Wilcox.
Petakov says all of those selected for the trip were unique in their own way and he encourages those interested in human rights to apply.
“We’re all from crazy backgrounds but we all made it to secondary education,” Petakov said. “We’re all trying to better the world and it’s a brutal place for more than half the population, which doesn’t have basic needs that we all take for granted and we’re really trying to help that.”