Students Examine Human Rights in Nine Countries
Taking 29 trains in 21 days, an Alma College class traveling through Europe met members of the Polish trade union Solidarity, sat in on a trial of an accused war criminal, and visited a tiny French village that sheltered thousands of refugees fleeing the Nazis.
Exploring the significance of human rights in nine different countries, the students in Professor Ed Lorenz’s Spring Term class on “Leadership in the Law of War, Peace and Human Rights” visited historic sites, international institutions and nongovernmental organizations.
“My goal was to show students the reasons why we have international standards to protect human rights,” says Lorenz. “All of the places we visited were places that I thought would help them gain this understanding.”
Alma College students at Le Chambon in France.
Highlights of the course include meeting with Solidarity members and sitting in on a trial at the International Criminal Court, an experience that Midland junior Ashley Yuill says was “unbelievably cool.”
“We were sitting literally feet from an accused war criminal,” she says. “It was an eerie experience, but since we’ve been studying the ICC since our first semester in college, it was one of the greatest opportunities we had during our trip.”
As the class traveled from Spain to Poland, Lorenz, the Reid-Knox Professor of History, says visiting tiny villages like Le Chambon sur-Lignon also provided some particularly memorable opportunities.
“While we saw remnants of destruction in places like Guernica, we also visited places like Le Chambon, a town in France with less than 5,000 people who managed to shelter 5,000 refugees fleeing the Nazis,” he says. “It proves that you don’t need a lot of resources to do the right thing.”
In addition to serving as both a historical and cultural experience, the course also emphasizes leadership. Students will assist the Center for Responsible Leadership and the Public Affairs Institute in organizing the 500th Anniversary Conference on Universality in Human Rights, which will be held in Washington D.C. in December.
“The class didn’t end when we came back,” says Lorenz. “Students know that they can do something as individuals to protect human rights, and this conference is a great way to further their understanding of international law.”
In the meantime, they will continue reflecting on their Spring Term experience, which was unlike any other course Yuill says she has taken at Alma. Not only did she gain an appreciation for different types of leadership and approaches to making the world a better place, she says she also has grown tremendously as a person because of it.
“I learned so much more than historical facts, international law principles or human rights theories,” she says. “I learned about myself — what I’m really passionate about, where I am in my development as a leader, who I admire and what I want to do with the rest of my time at Alma and with my future after I graduate.”
Posted: Mon, June 20th, 2011 at 8:24AM