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Human Rights Undergraduate Research Workshop

Illinois Wesleyan University is pleased to invite submissions for our annual student research Workshop on Human Rights in the Liberal Arts, which will take place on February 21-22, 2014.

The aim of the annual workshop is to bring together students and faculty from our different institutions to share their interests, insights, experiences, and concerns from the study of core human rights issues. We hope that the experience of presenting, sharing, and brainstorming their work with peers from similar institutions will offer students an invaluable opportunity to sharpen their ideas and arguments in ways that will help prepare them more fully for graduate or professional work in the field of human rights.  We also invite selected faculty mentors to participate in the workshop in recognition both of their efforts in developing their students’ skills and of the collaborative nature of human rights research in the liberal arts. Thus we hope to initiate on-going relationships with our own colleagues that will help to build issue-oriented professional networks that will advance the study of human rights issues.

Our broad theme for this year’s Workshop is Religion, Identity, and Conflict. We invite proposals from students doing substantial research on relevant issues, including – but not limited to – such topics as:

  • Religious identity, gender, and sexual orientation
  • Religious minorities and the secular state
  • Religion, salvation, and death
  • Faith-based movements, millenarianism and modernity
  • Religion, community and the other
  • Religion, war and nation
  • Faith-based organizations, service delivery, and social justice
  • Religious interpretations of legitimate violence
  • Religion, colonialism, and indigenous peoples’ rights

We wish to stress that the workshop is designed to foster inclusive discussions on students’ research topics in a relatively close and informal setting. As such, we do not require students to present finished or polished work, but welcome work in progress. Student proposals may be based on Honors research that a student is currently conducting, an independent research project, a completed term paper that a student would like to develop further, or any other substantial research work that is under way.

Illinois Wesleyan University will cover food and lodging for up to 15 students who are chosen to participate. We will provide similar accommodations for up to 5 faculty mentors. We ask visiting students and faculty to cover their own transportation costs to and from the Bloomington, IL area.

Understanding that participation in the workshop will be limited according to resource availability, we ask that each student applicant submit a 250 word abstract that details:

  • The question that her or his research addresses
  • The significance of the issue
  • Methods of enquiry and analysis
  • Preliminary findings

In addition, we ask that students submit one letter of recommendation from a supporting faculty member.

Faculty who are interested in attending as workshop mentors are asked to briefly explain their interest in the workshop theme as well as the ways in which they envision their contribution to the workshop in a short 150 word statement.

A tentative schedule of events for the workshop is listed below:

Friday, February 21

4 p.m.

Public Lecture on Religious (In)tolerance: Prof. Martha Nussbaum, Ernst Freund distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, University of Chicago (this address is not formally part of the workshop, but we hope that workshop participants can arrive in time to attend, and we will treat it as the kick-off to our discussions)

6 p.m.

Dinner and Introductions       

7 p.m.

Summary of Workshop Goals and Schedule

7:15-8 p.m.

Opening Roundtable Discussion based on Prof. Nussbaum’s talk

8-9:15 p.m.

Session # 1

Saturday, February 22

8 a.m.

Continental Breakfast

8:30-9:45 a.m.

Session # 2

9:45-11 a.m.

Session # 3

11-11:15 a.m.


11:15-12:30 p.m.

Session #4

12:30-1:30 p.m.

Keynote Address: Prof. Jonathan Ebel, Department of Religion, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

1:30-2:45 p.m.

Session #5

2:45-4 p.m.

Session #6

4-4:30 p.m.

Conclusion and Discussion of Further Initiatives

Materials should be submitted by December 10, 2013 in order to receive full consideration for participation. We recognize, however, that some students may still feel insecure about their preliminary findings at that time. In the event that there is still space in the workshop, we will entertain subsequent enquiries about participation until January 15, 2014.

The abstract, letter of recommendation, and faculty member statement of interest can be sent electronically to:

William Munro, Director
John and Erma Stutzman Peace Fellows Program
Illinois Wesleyan University

We hope to welcome your interested students and faculty to our campus. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.


Irv Epstein
Professor of Educational Studies and Director, Center for Human Rights and Social Justice
(309) 556-3105


Past workshops:

  2015 - Human Rights and Free Expression

2018 - Revolution and Social Justice

▷  2019 - Changing Climates