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Approved Courses

The following courses are offered consistently, and have been approved for the Global Human Rights Certificate. Students are responsible for confirming whether a particular course is offered in a given semester or year. Students may petition for two courses outside of this list.  The petition form is available at the bottom of this page.


PSCI 558–Global Human Rights 

What exactly should be considered a fundamental “human right” in international politics?  What is the basis for saying something is a fundamental human right?  This course will examine the conceptual, historical and political foundations of contemporary human rights debates.   The course will cover not only broad conceptual debates, but also focus on the politics of international human rights discussions, specific issue areas (e.g., civil rights, economic rights, women’s rights, children’s rights), as well as the question of how new rights norms emerge in international relations.

AFRC 420 - The US and Human Rights: Policies and Practices

After an examination of the philosophical, legal, and political perspectives on Human Rights, this course will focus on US policies and practices relevant to Human Rights.  Toward that end, emphasis will be placed on both the domestic and the international aspects of Human Rights as reflected in US policies and practices. Domestically, the course will discuss the process of incorporating the International Bill of Human Rights into the American legal system and the US position on and practices regarding the political, civil, economic, social, and cultural rights of minorities and various other groups within the US.  Internationally, the course will examine US Human Rights policies toward Africa.  Specific cases of Rwanda, Kenya, South Africa and Egypt, as well as other cases from the continent, will be presented in the assessment of US successes and failures in the pursuit of its Human Rights strategy in Africa.  Readings will include research papers, reports, statutes, treaties, and cases.

LALS 526-640 - Transitional Justice in Latin America: Lessons from Film, Case Studies, and First Hand Accounts

Latin America often serves as a model for transitional justice, the process of dealing with past human rights abuses.  The region provides numerous insights because many of its countries have emerged from years of civil war or transitioned to democracy since the mid 20th-century.  This online class explores the nature, history, and context of transitional justice across the region through class dialogue on film, case studies, first-hand accounts, and scholarly research.  Engaging in comparative analyses of countries including Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Guatemala, El Salvador, Peru and Colombia, students will consider such topics as the extent to which countries have moved from impunity to accountability for previous human rights violations, the effectiveness of transitional justice mechanisms, such as trials versus truth commissions, and the theoretical, empirical, and historical arguments for transitional justice.  Finally, students will learn about transitional justice models  and processes worldwide, including the case of South Africa and the workings of the International Criminal Court, and analyze them according to the Latin American examples. 


LAW 655–Transnational Legal Clinic: Fieldwork (Open to Law Students Only)

Students will be engaged in “front-line” work in actual cases under close faculty supervision as well as in weekly seminar study of the course material. Working in teams of two or more, students in the Transnational Legal Clinic engage in direct representation of individual and organizational clients in immigration and human rights cases and projects. Representation may encompass advocacy before administrative agencies or courts or before governmental agencies or international organizations focused on the promotion of human rights. Students are expected to assume responsibility for all aspects of client representation and legal advocacy, while exploring differences in culture, language and legal systems.  Clinic has limited enrollment with preference given to third-year students.

LAW 660–Public International Law

This course introduces students to the legal rules and institutions that govern the international political system. The course provides a formal introduction to international law and emphasizes the relationships between law and politics in the behavior of states, institutions, and individuals in world politics. Topics include: international economic law and the debates surrounding the WTO; international criminal law and the International Criminal Court; the protection of human rights; the use of force and the invasions of Kosovo and Iraq; the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the future of the United Nations.

LAW 900 - International Women’s Rights

Securing the protection and promotion of the human rights of women globally remains one of the major challenges of the 21st century. This class will focus on the international human rights system as it relates to the protection and promotion of women, the intersectionality of human rights conventions, treaty bodies, and UN special procedures; critically analyze the theoretical debates about securing the human rights of women, including debates about discrimination, equality, the public-private divide, cultural practices/cultural relativism and mainstreaming human rights; critically comment on the international law-based approaches to securing the human rights of women; and the analysis of domestic application and implementation of international norms and the mechanisms for enforcing the human rights of women, including gaps in treaty body reporting, strengths and weaknesses in lawmaking and challenges in women’s rights litigation.

LAW 949 - Law and Morality of War

We will consider different arguments for the permissibility of killing or inflicting injury in war, examining the limitations each theory would impose on conduct in war. With regard to the war on terror, we will ask what means of dealing with suspects terrorists are legally and morally permissible.  We will consider the practice of targeted killing, both within and outside current zones of armed conflict. We will consider whether government actors or those assisting government operations who violate basic rules of war should be held criminally liable for their actions, and if so, what the extent of their liability should be.  

LAW 992–International Human Rights Post 9-11

This course will analyze the continuing tension between international human rights norms and national security following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The central debate will be whether national security must propel the application of human rights, or whether human rights law must shape national security measures. Additionally, students will be asked to consider the value of a “moral imperative” to safeguard human rights in a post-9/11 world. Does such an imperative still exist?

LAW 606–Refugee Law

This studies the response of the international legal system to the after-effects of major human rights tragedies, which push large numbers of refugees across national borders, creating massive dislocation and other serious problems. Students gain an understanding of both international and US law, including regulations and cases, on treatment of individuals who leave because of human rights violations, on account of their race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion. Students apply theory to practice by meeting with asylum seekers (e.g. from Africa, fleeing the crisis in Chad, or genocide n the Darfur region of Sudan).

LAW 643/924–China and International Law

This seminar examines contemporary China’s approach to international law, focusing on how China has understood and addressed key principles and doctrines of international law, and on international legal disputes and actions that have been important for China (including Taiwan and Hong Kong). Specific topics to be covered include China’s approach to sources of international law, treaties, statehood and sovereignty, the relationship between domestic and international law, state jurisdiction, immunity and responsibility, international dispute resolution, the law of the sea, human rights, the use of force and international economic law. In each of these areas, the course addresses concrete contemporary controversies as well as broader patterns and underlying issues.

LAW 945 - GRS: Special Topics (Open to Law Students Only)

Each year, Global Research Seminars address new cutting-edge topics, identified by law faculty as singular research opportunities for Penn Law students.  These intensive semester or year-long research courses build toward an overseas field research visit when students and faculty jointly meet with primary stakeholders on key topics in public and private international law.  A Global Research Seminar will be considered an approved course only if the topic of this bi-annual seminar is pre-approved by the Global Human Rights Certificate Committee.  Please contact your advisor for specific details.


SW 749 - Civil Society Activities Promoting Coexistence, Shared Society and Peace in Israel and Palestine

This course will focus on activities carried out by nonprofit organizations operating within the Israeli civil society, dealing with issues related to co-existence and to the protection and advancement of the civil and human rights of different populations, with special emphasis on the Arab-Palestinian population in Israel.  These activities include educational and social services programs, equality before the law, community work and advocacy activities, and prevention of systematic discrimination based on ethnic and religious affiliation. This course is designed to introduce students to the challenges and complexities of promoting coexistence in Israel - where civilizations, religions, national identities and ideologies converge. The May course will be structured as a week-long field research visit to Israel, and will include meetings  with civil society activists, leaders of nonprofit organizations and communities and professional experts, as well as class discussions.  An application and program fee are required for this course. All graduate students are eligible to apply; applications from undergraduate juniors and seniors are reviewed on a case by case basis. Detailed course information can be found on the SP2 Global Courses page.

SWRK 755/MSSP 755: International Social Policy & Practice: Perspectives from the Global South

This interdisciplinary course will introduce students to social policy and practice perspectives from outside the U.S. and especially from communities in the Global South. The course will familiarize them with global professions and help prepare them for overseas/cross-cultural practice. Through the course students will identify numerous strategies and skills professionals have used to collaboratively build interventions within human rights, social policy, social welfare, education, healthcare and sustainable development arenas.

SWRK 772–Post-colonial Social Work Practice: International Social Welfare in India

In this course, students examine the global welfare system and its engagement with marginalized communities. This six-week course in Kolkata, India, centers around a sex workers’ collaborative in Sonagachi, one of Asia’s largest red light districts. Interviews with the collaborative’s workers and study of their grassroots movement are combined with class discussions and research projects in which students engage with texts on HIV, sex work, feminist postcolonial theory and international social work.

SWRK 763– Immigration: Policy and Practice

This course will begin with the history of migration to the US, as well as legal definitions of newcomers, including obtaining documents for lawful permanent residence, refugee status, as well as grounds for exclusion and deportation, and paths to naturalized citizenship. We will then review how a framework of cultural competence, and a strength or asset-based approach can inform service to immigrant clients.  The core portion of the course will then focus first on the intersection of immigrants and health, mental health, employment, crimes, public entitlements, and public education.  The course will conclude with family issues relevant to immigrant families: women, children, lesbian and gay, and elderly immigrants. Public policy issues will be integrated throughout, and the course will end with specific suggestions on systems change at various levels.   By the end of the course students should be able to identify strategies for individual clients advocacy (micro); agency and community strategies (mezzo), and  government advocacy (macro) to empower immigrant clients to become full community participants.

SWRK 798–Critical Race Theory

This course explores Critical Race Theory (CRT). CRT refers to a body of work that emerged during the 1980s and 90s among legal educators to try and explain why there seemingly has been racial progress, on the one hand, through laws and court decisions that outlaw the most visible symbols of racial discrimination, but growing signs of racial inequality, on the other, in education, health, criminal justice, housing, and politics. CRT has spawned and/or influenced new areas of inquiry such as Latino/a critical studies, queer studies, critical race feminism, and critical white studies. Although social work researchers have begun to use CRT ideas such as intersectionality, the application of Critical Race Theory to the field remains largely unexplored.


EDUC 514 – Basic Education in Developing Countries

In this course, we will actively engage in this debate through a survey of the global development literature in the field of education. We will examine theoretical frameworks and historical perspectives that will allow us to develop a better understanding of what is meant by “development” as well as recognize how these concepts relate to basic educational planning and practice in various contexts. The goal of this course is to improve your understanding of how different theories of education and development influence educational policy, priorities, and programs of international, national, and local institutions.

EDUC 511–Equality

‘All men (or all humans) are created equal’: What does this statement mean? What are we all equal in? What should we be equal in? Do we have equal potential, equal dignity, equal worth? Must we have equal resources, equal opportunities, equal status? In this class we will consider philosophical and political approaches to the idea of equality. In this class the general concept of equality will be presented. The discussion will focus on early modern and contemporary conceptions of human beings as equal in some factual facet of their existence. The notion of equality as sameness will be explored along with some critiques.

EDUC 545 – Poverty & Child Development

This course teaches what is known about poverty and child development and touches directly and indirectly on human rights. Poverty touches every aspect of children’s lives – from their self-perceptions, to their families, schools, and neighborhoods. Growing income inequality, changes in the labor market and increasing family instability are challenging the capacities of families and communities to care for their children in the United States and globally. We consider these issues systematically, as well as what the role is of state and local governments, and non-profit organizations, to address the growing and changing needs of families and communities. We use the United Nations Declarations on the Right of the Child as a framework from which to consider many of these issues.


PUBH 525 - Health and Human Rights

This course will explore the interplay between health and human rights and enable students to critically apply human rights to public health practice. We will explore the development of health as a human right and how public health research and policy can affect human rights. Students will learn about core human rights principles and mechanisms and the international development agenda. The class will examine topics at the intersection of global health and human rights including health in conflict settings, HIV/AIDS, harm reduction, sexual and reproductive health, and climate change. Class material will primarily focus on public health challenges in the global south; however, we will also discuss health and human rights issues faced by vulnerable populations in the United States.  Students will be assigned several writing assignments to ensure the understand key human rights principles and frameworks and can apply them to a range of public health initiatives.

PUBH 551– Global Health Policy and Delivery

This participatory interdisciplinary seminar course examines contemporary issues in global health policy and delivery. The overall organizing framework for the class is the social determinants of health. The class will consider evidence that inequalities in education, income, and occupation influence health status. Students will develop skills in policy analysis, policy brief development, and policy impact monitoring. The public policy process will be explored using a variety of contemporary global health case studies which focus on content areas such as maternal health, HIV policy, refugee health and global healthcare delivery. Finally, we will examine the global health workforce and the impact of widespread global migration of health professionals on receiving and sending countries.

BIOE 571- Global Health Policy: Justice, Governance, and Reform

This course considers various theoretical approaches to global justice and global governance and analyzes their implications for global health. The course includes two parts. The first part examines accounts of cosmopolitanism, nationalism and other theories of global justice, critically assessing duties ascribed by each that may be owed universally to all persons or confined within associative boundaries of communities or nations. The second part explores applications to global health governance encompassing consideration of human rights and the operation and accountability of global institutions such as the United Nations, the World Bank, and the World Health Organization and national health systems. The course scrutinizes the relevance of global justice for governing the global health realm, evaluating the current global health system and proposals for reforming it.


LGST 524–Human Rights and Globalization

The 2000 UN Global Compact and 2011 UN Human Rights Council’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights have confirmed the role of TNCs as central actors in the field of international human rights law. This course introduces students to how international human rights law is currently being expanded to capture the operations of TNCs and why this development is controversial. The course examines competing perspectives on the pros and cons of imposing human rights responsibilities on businesses based in capital-exporting countries that are operating in emerging economies. Perspectives of various governments, businesses, international institutions, academics, and NGOs on issues of human rights and globalization will be considered, and a variety of case studies will be analyzed.


Petitioning for Non-approved  Courses

An advisor may allow a student in his/her School to count two courses outside the preapproved list toward the five course requirement. This decision requires the submission of a petition form, and the executive committee’s approval of the merit of the petition.  Courses are considered on a case-by-case basis.  One example of a successful petition course might be a class taught by visiting faculty, new offering, or other one-time class that may not be available again.  Another example might be a class that touches on themes outside the central academic objectives of the Certificate.  Further information is available on the petition form below.

Petition Form for Course Approval