Apply for the Human Rights Watch Capstone Project 2015-16

The Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota is recruiting up to ten excellent graduate students for the 2015-16 round of its Human Rights Advisory Services capstone project, sponsored by the Humphrey School Global Policy program.

The Humphrey School for Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota is recruiting up to ten excellent graduate students for the 2015-16 round of its Human Rights Watch Advisory Services capstone project, sponsored by the Humphrey Global Policy program.

Students will work closely, in groups, with two faculty members and Human Rights Watch personnel.

Successful candidates will enroll in the Humphrey Global Policy capstone course workshop, PA 5990, Section 2 (0 credits) in Fall 2015, and in the related capstone course, PA 8081, Section 3 (Capstone Workshop: Foreign Policy and Human Rights) (3 credits), in Spring 2016. (NOTE: MDP students must enroll in the MDP-specific Capstone Workshop.) Orientation and preliminary research, including in-person meetings with HRW staff, will begin in November 2015; the bulk of the research, writing, and presentations will take place during the semester of Spring 2016.

Students may have an opportunity to travel to New York in early May 2016 to present their findings at the Human Rights Watch central office. 


Humphrey School graduate students in their final year are eligible to apply, as are University of Minnesota graduate students in political science, sociology, law, public health, economics, business, accounting, computer science, and related disciplines.


Students must have related working experience in the public, private, or nonprofit sector, preferably overseas; demonstrated familiarity with research methods, including qualitative, quantitative, or legal; and demonstrated capacity to produce high quality written work, in English, in a timely manner. Prior experience working in small groups, and foreign language skills, are an asset. 

Project Details

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has identified several potential research topics. The capstone faculty leaders will choose up to two of these, based on the number, skills and preferences of recruited students:

1. Probability-based surveys and human rights: How might HRW best use
these surveys to investigate and promote economic, social, and cultural rights? What best practices can be learned from other organizations? 

2. Supply chain analysis & human rights: How might HRW investigate human rights abuses, and the legal and moral responsibilities of stakeholders, in global supply chains? What lessons can HRW learn from other organizations and business analysts?

3. Budget analysis & human rights: How can HRW best engage with, and learn from, the growing field of budget analysis for human rights? What methods are being used at the international, national, and sub-national levels, and how could HRW best contribute to this work?

4. Crowd-sourcing & human rights: Crowdsourcing is a common method in gathering information for business and humanitarian relief. How can this method be used to document human rights violations in a responsible and accurate manner? What are the pitfalls, and how can they be overcome?

5. Using social media to identify interview subjects: A handful of academics have begun using social media to identify potential research subjects, especially from “hidden” populations such as victims of sexual assault. Could HRW use similar techniques, and if so, how? 

Program Details

Students will work closely together in small groups of 3-5 members. They will interview relevant experts around the world; review and summarize the work of peer NGOs; review and summarize the relevant scholarly work; review the relevant HRW research. Students will write a 20-page paper and 20-page appendix advising HRW how best to integrate these new methods into their ongoing research, using concrete examples wherever possible. The final product also includes a 30-40 minute group presentation in Minneapolis and, potentially, in New York. 

The 2015-2016 capstone follows the success of the 2014-2015 experience with Human Rights Watch, in which two teams of students produced reports for Human Rights Watch with recommendations for their use of two cutting-edge methodologies--the use of peer researchers and event-based media monitoring in human rights reporting. It will be led by the Humphrey School Global Policy coordinator, Mary Curtin, and Humphrey Global Policy & Political Science Department faculty member, James Ron, who holds the Stassen Chair in International Affairs. 

Prof. Curtin was a career US diplomat before joining the Humphrey School; Prof. Ron’s research and teaching are focused on human rights issues, and he has been a frequent consultant to Human Rights Watch.


Please send your application to Laura Noble (, including a short cover letter, CV, short sample of relevant written work, and names and email addresses of two University of Minnesota faculty members familiar with your work. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, beginning September 8, 2015, and ending on September 30, 2015.


For details, or information on other Global Policy Capstones available, please write to Prof. Curtin at
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