Human Rights in Practice: the Washington D.C. Human Rights Seminar

Human Rights in Practice: the Washington D.C. Human Rights Seminar


>>So the D.C. Seminar started when the
campus started, which was in 1990. One of the founding faculty members, Bob Schultz,
brought it from his previous institution. So it’s run almost every year since then.>>So I participated in the D.C. Seminar the summer of 2017 – in that cohort.>>I learned about the DC seminar in my first quarter at UW Bothell and I really knew
that coming back into college that I wanted a study away experience but at
that time of my life I couldn’t afford to study abroad. This program
really intrigued me, so I decided to apply.>>Students spend really most of the
spring and summer on their own doing some research with some meetings
occasionally to figure out what their topic is and prepare a research proposal
before they go. And the importance of the research proposal is that they’re able
to go into these meetings with professionals in the field as
researchers and they’re there as researchers asking really smart, focused
questions about their research topic.>>I felt compelled to learn about the
practice of how human rights policy is advanced and to understand the
…essentially the functions of stakeholders and their role in in
advancing human rights policy.>>I initially thought that we would go and
meet with these people and these stakeholders — it would be very informal
and it would not be taken as seriously as it was. But we went there and a lot of the
times we went into different and NGOs, think tanks, etc., we would be sitting in a
boardroom with directors and they would treat us with an immense amount of respect
and they’d want to know what we’re doing.>>One of the reasons the class succeeds
every year is because the class has built a reputation over the 25+
years that it’s been going to D.C. And so we have … when the landscape
changes we already have connections and they already know about the class. I’m
just thinking of a couple examples: One was we were meeting at the Norwegian
Embassy and the Ambassador actually showed up. And his words were literally:
I’ve been hearing about this class for three years – I had to see what this is
all about.>>Around day one or two — it depends on the group — people start to
realize that (these are already really good students) but they start to realize
we’re meeting with the leaders in these fields. We’re meeting with Human Rights
Watch directors. We’re meeting at the State Department. We’re meeting with our
senator tomorrow. We’ve had a debrief until 10:00 p.m. — but okay we’re gonna
stay up until 1 a.m. just preparing the best questions we can, and
doing as much research as we can for the next day’s meetings. And they’re
really busy days but the students rise to the occasion every single year and
you see that moment where it becomes really real and not just in a classroom.>>Going to D.C. and just spending a week there — it really emphasizes the power of
like the D.C. culture. When people talk about Seattle they talk about how it
revolves around technology, and when people talk about D.C. they talk about
politics. The only times I’ve been to D.C. I was a tourist but like you saw how
people from all different political spectrums — be it Republicans, be it
Democrats, conservatives, liberals — were all kind of compacted in one city and
they were making change.>>That student researcher might know more about their subject in this issue than the person they’re talking to. And they can
actually put it on their agenda; that they can raise something that a
legislative aide might not have looked into yet and might be interested or
curious about; so that the students themselves belong in the conversation
around policy and I think that’s incredibly empowering .>>I think oftentimes —
particularly being on the other coast — it can feel so far away and like it’s, you
know, sort of just happening, sort of either automatically or in a world that
they can’t connect to. And I think the week in D.C. is really powerful because
you recognize that these folks are human beings, they have weird personality
quirks, they — you know — present in funny ways, and you like some of them and you
dislike others of them, and it’s all a very human process.>>But I think it’s
helped me just be a more compassionate human being who really takes a broader
look at everything and tries to set aside my own perspective to understand
issues from others’ points of view.>>I feel like I’ve restored a new sense of
confidence in being able to be an advocate, you know, for not just human
rights, but for education policy, for immigration policy.>>After the first day
we really realized how real this experience was. We would have 8 to 10
p.m. days, but right after we would all take our binders and just sit and
literally collaboratively learn and prepare for the next day because we
realized how important and valuable of a week it was.

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