New Undergraduate Certificate Program Will Empower Students to Understand and Promote Human Rights and Social Justice

The Global Studies Center is pleased to announce a new undergraduate certificate starting this Spring 2023. The Human Rights and Social Justice certificate will provide students the knowledge and skills to engage with important issues of our times, to explore multi-disciplinary foundations and current debates about human rights and social justice, and to contribute positively to their communities and future careers. The program embeds learning and engagement with issues of diversity, equality, inclusion, and social change, within the bedrock of the deeply entrenched and long-standing global human rights system. It focuses on the interdisciplinary study and application of foundational concepts and global standards of human rights to diverse issues and movements, including but not limited to: poverty, race, ethnicity, gender, sex, sexual orientation, religion, ability, and age, both past and present.

The Making of a New Undergraduate Certificate

"This certificate provides the necessary tools for students to drive campaigns for improvement in the world, whether at home or abroad."

This concept came to fruition under the guidance and direction of Dr. Michael Goodhart – former Global Studies Center Director and Professor of Political Science and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies – and Dr. Lisa Alfredson, the International Development Program Director at the Graduate School for Public and International Affairs (GSPIA) and an Assistant Professor with a focus on Human Rights. Dr. Goodhart’s connection with the Global Studies Center provided the perfect opportunity to create a certificate for students passionate about human rights and pressing social issues, such as environmental justice, Black Lives Matter, and the #MeToo movement. With numerous human rights courses already offered at Pitt, Dr. Goodhart and Dr. Alfredson were able to link the different departments and courses with the common goal of furthering education on human rights and giving students the opportunity to specialize in the topic. 
As an Assistant Professor with a focus on human rights, Dr. Alfredson’s passion for education and current issues converges with this new certificate: “This certificate provides the necessary tools for students to drive campaigns for improvement in the world, whether at home or abroad.” Her goal is to empower students with access to information about critical human rights topics and issues that they can use in day-to-day life as well as academic pursuits.
“It gives students an opportunity to focus on and understand human rights as part of a broader social justice context”, Dr. Goodhart observed, while noting that the timing was influenced by current issues, especially racial justice issues in America today: “It is important to make human rights programming available and accessible for students to engage academically and personally at such a polarized moment in America and, more generally, the world.”
This new certificate creates an opportunity to provide specialization on academic transcripts that is not possible any other offerings. Because of the nature of this new certificate – the full title of the Human Rights and Social Justice Certificate is displayed. This differentiation gives students the chance to stand out and to send a clear signal about their academic interests and focuses for graduate schools or potential employers.

About the Certificate

This certificate is designed around five thematically specific learning objectives. Upon completion, students should be able to meet the following objectives:
  1. Identify foundational human rights and social justice concepts including equality, discrimination, universality, and interdependence, from historical to current and local to transnational perspectives.
  2. Differentiate current research, programs, strategies, and actors that address human rights and social justice issues in a variety of settings.
  3. Recognize the cultural, political, sociological, economic, and other dimensions of particular human rights issues in a variety of contexts.
  4. Appreciate how different disciplines approach human rights and apply one or more approach to a human rights issue.
  5. Identify different discourses on human rights and social justice to communicate effectively about rights issues for various audiences.
18 credits of approved courses, including foundation and elective courses
  • 6 credits of foundation courses 
  • 12 credits of elective courses* 
Human Rights Digital Portfolio
*Alternative credit options include internships, interdisciplinary research, experiential learning opportunities, workshops, and pop-up micro courses approved by an academic advisor

To learn more about the certificate, please email or schedule an advising appointment with our Academic Advisor Elaine Linn.