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Mission and History


The mission of the Global Human Rights Certificate is to promote human rights at Penn with enrolled undergraduate and graduate students. The certificate offers curricular options for gaining knowledge of global human rights through a variety of courses across various disciplines.

Human rights have assumed great prominence as globalization has advanced. Not only are human rights of vital practical importance in fields like international politics and development strategies, but in the academic domain, problems are increasingly being assessed in relation to human rights. The study of human rights now constitutes a portion of most disciplines in the social sciences and the humanities as well as the professions, including the fields of medicine, law, and engineering. The certificate courses will be useful for advanced students with interests in a variety of fields, as well as for teachers, researchers, and the service professions. These interdisciplinary studies will also be of value for law enforcement, military, public health, and governmental personnel.


Professor Henry Teune, a professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania for 50 years, held the firm view that widespread knowledge of human rights would further the observance of such rights. In spring 2008 he explored with colleagues at Penn ideas for ways of harnessing the interests of faculty across the University and the human rights offerings in various schools to present a curriculum for students.  In fall 2010, SAS agreed to award a Certificate to those students meeting the requirements as set forth in the proposal.  As of January 2011, students could take courses with the aim of meeting the requirements for the Graduate Certificate in Interdisciplinary Studies in Global Human Rights.

Henry Teune died in April 2011, having succeeded in the effort to have an interdisciplinary program in human rights at Penn, but too early to see the first student qualify for the Graduate Certificate. His faculty colleagues recognize Henry Teune as a champion of efforts to promote human rights, and continue his work of providing Penn students with a curricular option for gaining knowledge of global human rights.