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University of Minnesota Human Rights Center
Upper Midwest Human Rights Fellowship Program

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Upper Midwest Application



The Human Rights Center [1] encourages law students and graduate students at the University of Minnesota to undertake opportunities for practical experience related to international human rights. In late March, 2014, the Human Rights Center will award approximately twenty-five grants for transportation, lodging, and food expenses while working with a human rights organization relevant to the purposes of the Center as described below. In principle, placements will average at least ten weeks, although this period will vary according to the individual needs of participants and host organizations.

The Human Rights Center was established in 1988 at the University of Minnesota. The Center fosters study, applied research, curriculum development, practical training, documentation, dissemination, and outreach on many aspects of international human rights. The term "international human rights" describes those civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights guaranteed by the International Bill of Human Rights [2] and other international instruments. [3]

The Fellowship Program is designed to promote those rights by providing practical training, on the one hand, and assistance to host organizations, on the other. Fellowships will also foster links between communities in the Upper Midwest and human rights concerns and activities throughout the world. Participants are expected to return with a deeper commitment to a lifetime of work in human rights as professionals, community leaders and activists, teachers, and volunteers. Grant recipients should also plan to bring these international human rights experiences home through creative presentations and outreach initiatives in their local communities in the Upper Midwest.

Most of the Fellowship Program’s present funding is designated for law students and graduate students at the University of Minnesota. There may also be some Fellowships awarded to graduate students in public health, or to medical students. In the past, the Fellowship Program has been able to offer fellowships to other categories of applicants: undergraduate students, graduate and professional students in fields other than law, teachers, lawyers, other professionals, and emerging leaders. Present funding does not provide for these categories of applicants, but future funding may again make such fellowships possible in future years.

The human rights movement itself can benefit greatly from collaboration among individuals from different social, economic, and cultural origins, and those persons with both rural and urban backgrounds. Over the years, the Center has received generous support from the Otto Bremer Foundation, the Albert and Anne Mansfield Foundation, the Robina Foundation, Bill Drake for the Dobiáš Human Rights Fellowship, Lucy Hartwell, Samuel D. Heins, Mark Hiemenz, Charlie Rounds, Allen and Linda Saeks, Bill Tilton, members of the University of Minnesota Law School Class of 1978, and other donors.



Awards will ordinarily range from $1,000 to $5,000, with grants averaging about $3,200. Fellowship money will help pay transportation, lodging, and food expenses incurred during the fellowship period, but will not support the family of the grantee. Grants may be used for the summer or during a similar period of the fall, winter, or spring.

Applicants are encouraged to apply to other funders for additional support, if needed. If you are a university student, check what other programs your university may sponsor.



Applications are encouraged from law students and graduate students at the University of Minnesota. Applicants must submit with their application a written commitment from the proposed sponsoring organization indicating that the organization will accept the fellow if funding can be arranged. The placement must relate to the purposes of the Human Rights Center, to the applicant's experience and training, and to the applicant's future goals. Applicants must have adequate proficiency in the relevant languages.

Types of Placements

Applicants are encouraged to arrange placements outside the United States, but placements with local, regional, or national organizations will be considered, so long as there is a significant human rights aspect to the organization's work. In writing to any organization, the applicant should make clear that the funding has not yet been decided. The applicant should ask if the organization would be willing to accept them if funding can be arranged by the University of Minnesota Human Rights Center.

Individuals who receive fellowships should be integrated into the regular work of the host organization, so that the applicant learns how the organization functions and assists in their work. This program does not provide an institutional setting to pursue academic projects or papers. Fellowships constitute a subsidy to the receiving organization. Hence, the Human Rights Center will consider, inter alia, the nature of the work pursued by the proposed host organization.

Past projects [4] have focused on many aspects of human rights work, including providing direct assistance to survivors of human rights abuses and their families, documenting human rights abuses, assisting asylum applicants, lodging complaints with international bodies, providing medical care to refugees and torture survivors, and organizing public awareness campaigns.

The Human Rights Center will organize an orientation session for participants before their departure. This preparatory training will address such issues as witnessing human rights abuses, interviewing survivors, adjusting to new living conditions and cultural situations, and issues related to re-entry.

The Selection Process

A primary criterion for selection is a demonstrated interest in, and commitment to, the promotion of international human rights. One goal of the program is to deepen the understanding of international human rights in US communities. To further this goal, applicants will be required to propose how they plan to bring their human rights experiences home, whether through teaching, volunteer projects, public speaking, slide shows, or other community activities.

A subcommittee of the Human Rights Center's Advisory Board will select the grant recipients. Awards will be determined by considering an individual's qualifications and interests together with the needs of the supervising organization. Announcements of fellowship grants will be made by March 31, 2015.


Application Procedures

Applications must be received by Friday, February 6, 2015 by 4:00 pm CST. Please contact the Human Rights Center (612-626-2226) or email if you have any questions.


2015 Application:

MS Word



Human Rights Fellowship Program Expectations and Requirements

1. To complete a 2-3 page written report within 2 months of the completion of the Fellowship;

2. To write a blog post for the Human Rights Center’s social media outlet;

3. To write thank you notes to your donor(s);

4. To attend the Fellowship Debriefing Session in October 2014;

5. To assist with the recruitment of 2015 Human Rights Fellows; and

6. To communicate by Human Rights Day (December 10, 2015) what you have done or plan to do to bring your fellowship experience back to your home communities.


For More Information

You are welcome to contact the University of Minnesota Human Rights Center at any time. You may also stop by the office, located in room N120 of the University of MN Law School. The Human Rights Center Office is open Monday - Friday (9 am - 5 pm).


Willa Gelvick
Fellowship Coordinator
Tel. (612) 626-2226

Postal Address: 

U of M Human Rights Center
Fellowship Program

Mondale Hall, Suite N120
229 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455

In choosing a possible placement, interested applicants may wish to contact organizations that have previously sponsored interns and fellows from the Human Rights Center. A list of previous internship and fellowship grants [5] is available from the Human Rights Center and is posted on its website. In addition, information about potential placements is available from the Human Rights Center. Most international human rights organizations have extensive websites, as do United Nations organizations involved with human rights. Over 4,000 organizational links are available at the University of Minnesota Human Rights Library.[6]


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