HATTIESBURG – With
the treatment of prisoners of war, gay and women’s rights,
and racism beingprominent issues in society, many people feel compelled
to gain a better understanding of their civil and human rights.
That trend can be found on The University of Southern
Mississippi’s campus. Students’ hunger for more knowledge
has prompted the addition of a human rights minor and future Center
for Human Rights and Civil Liberties. A minor is a secondary field
of specialization for which 18 semester hours of credit (usually
six courses) are required.
The program, scheduled to be unveiled this fall,
will provide students with the opportunity to learn about domestic
and international issues related to civil rights and provide hands-on
experience via internships in the United States and abroad.
“I believe the unique thing about this
minor is its ability to demonstrate the critical role of human rights
and liberties to students in all majors,” said appointed program
Co-director Dr. Denise von Herrmann, associate dean of Southern
Miss’ College of Arts and Letters.
“Students will learn about the rights
of people in all societies, about attempts to protect those rights,
and about some of the impacts that accrue to societies where such
rights are not protected.”
According to von Herrmann, students will also tackle
issues of race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomics, religious equality,
and policy impacts such as income inequalities and educational attainment—subject
matters which are of keen interest to Southern Miss junior Latoya
“I think it will be a great opportunity,
especially for those who are majoring in social work,” commented
Mitchell. “Our field requires us advocating for human rights,
and this (minor) will be a good opportunity to expand people’s
horizons about everybody’s rights in general.”
It was students like Mitchell who were the driving
force behind the project, said political science assistant professor
Bob Press, who spearheaded the campaign for the new minor after
working in Africa as a foreign correspondent.
Press said students have played a major role in developing
the Center for Human Rights and Civil Liberties since the concept
was first discussed in the spring of 2004. He said the most active
students associated with the center early on requested a minor as
a way to provide them marketable credit for their studies in the
area of human rights.
Upon their requests, a seven-member committee—comprised
of faculty and staff—was formed to make the minor a reality.
Led by history department Chair Chuck Bolton, the
committee’s first steps involved getting approval from the
College Council of the College of Liberal Arts and Letters and Southern
Miss Academic Council. They approved it “overwhelmingly”
said Press. Provost Jay Grimes also gave thumbs up to the minor.
“All deserve credit for their support
of the center and the minor, which provides students a way to translate
classroom knowledge into action in a variety of careers in the public
and private sector,” said Press.
“Here at home, the issue of human rights
is not only historic but a topic of contemporary importance for
many,” he said. “This (human rights minor) can involve
creative, constructive dialogues and practical projects that help
people exercise their rights and freedom.”
For more information on the human rights minor and
its requirements, please contact Denise von Herrmann at (601) 266-4315
or advisor Kate Green at (601) 266-5834.