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Human Rights Alumni

By Dave Larsen

McLean Johnson ’12 is one of several alumni showcasing the wide range of career possibilities available to graduates of the University of Dayton’s landmark human rights studies program, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

“I think a lot of people hear ‘human rights major’ and it’s one of those things that sounds like a fun degree, but you’re not sure how you would use it,” she said. “Obviously, there are many of us who found wonderful ways to use that degree.”

Johnson, attorney-advisor at the National Labor Relations Board, is one of five human rights studies alumni who will return to campus Thursday, Dec. 6, for a panel discussion, “Human Rights Practice and Profession: From the Classroom to the Field.” The panel, from 3:30 to 5 p.m., is part of the program’s 20th anniversary celebration, which also marks the 70th anniversary of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“To come back and hopefully inspire other UD students and community members to get involved in human rights issues is always exciting,” said Johnson, who also holds a law degree from Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law.

Her fellow panelists are a diverse roster of human rights practitioners:

  • Anamaria T. Karrels ’16, U.S. Department of State foreign service officer.
  • Kata Lucas ’12, NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security analyst.
  • Laura Getz ’11, Center for Work, Education and Employment bilingual community support specialist.
  • Mike Schulz ’07, Mission of Mary Cooperative executive director.

“This panel of accomplished and passionate human rights studies alumni are proof of concept — that human rights education enhances our University’s capacity to deliver transformative education that empowers young people to be agents of change for the Common Good,” said Natalie Florea Hudson, associate professor of political science and human rights studies program director. “I am so proud to welcome them back home.”

As a University of Dayton undergraduate, Karrels received the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship and interned in the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs and at the U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Geneva. She also interned at the U.S. Embassy in Santiago, Chile, while pursuing her master’s degree at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

In April, Karrels will arrive at her State Department post in São Paulo, Brazil.

“UD prepared me for all of it, especially for graduate school, in the rigors of writing papers, writing in the active voice and making sure to have credible sources,” she said.

As an undergraduate, Lucas did a class project on the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security — a New York City-based coalition of 18 international non-governmental organizations working to advance the U.N. Security Council’s implementation of the women, peace and security agenda. She received a fellowship from the group while pursuing her master’s degree in international affairs from the New School and now works for the organization as a consultant.

Lucas also spent five months this year in Bosnia, conducting interviews for her ongoing academic research into survivors of conflict-related sexual violence in the post-Dayton Accords world from a feminist perspective. She started that research as an undergraduate and presented on it in November 2017 at the University of Dayton’s Social Practice of Human Rights conference.

“The foundation of it all started at UD,” Lucas said. “Obviously, I was in the human rights program, but in addition to that I took feminist-focused classes with Dr. Hudson and also human rights advocacy courses with Dr. Alexandra Budabin. I think those courses in particular enabled me to find these specific issue areas that I was so interested in.”

Johnson originally planned to study environmental law, but discovered the importance of labor rights — article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — while volunteering for Campus Ministry’s Center for Social Concern as the University’s student representative with Leaders for Equity and Action in Dayton. At the time, LEAD was involved in a campaign to defeat an Ohio Senate bill that sought to restrict collective bargaining rights for public employees. She later received her first law school internship because it involved labor law and community building in Dayton.

“Having been engaged in so much of that during my time at the University of Dayton, I was well-prepared to get out there and engage with the community and have discussions about how labor rights interacted with immigration, and how that interacted with tax incentive financing, even though I had only done one year of law school,” Johnson said.

The University of Dayton established the nation’s first undergraduate human rights studies program in 1998 and launched one of the nation’s first bachelor’s degrees in human rights studies in 2008. The University’s Human Rights Center was founded in 2013 to lead the global human rights community in the search for transformative solutions to systemic patterns of injustice that will affect real change in the lives of the poor and the persecuted.

The human rights studies program’s 20th anniversary celebration also includes a second panel, “Educating Future Generations in Human Rights During Challenging Times,” from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Panelists include Marcia V. J. Kran, an international lawyer and independent expert on the U.N. Human Rights Committee; former U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez; and Bert Lockwood, distinguished professor of law and director of the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights at the University of Cincinnati.

Both panels, as well as a reception between the events, are free and open to the public. They will be in the auditorium at Daniel J. Curran Place, 1700 S. Patterson Blvd. in Dayton. Please RSVP for the events at go.udayton.edu/hrc.


For more information about the University of Dayton human rights studies program and Human Rights Center, please visit go.udayton.edu/humanrights and go.udayton.edu/hrc.

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