Applied Research with Human Rights Organizations

PA 5890 – Applied Research with Human Rights Organizations

Each year, Prof. James Ron works with teams of University of Minnesota graduate students to on applied research projects for one or more human rights organizations. Until Spring 2018, our main partner has been the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), a group Prof. Ron has been associated with professionally for several decades. Beginning in Spring 2019, we hope to work with HRW as well as other leading rights groups.

This activity is sponsored by the Humphrey School for Public Affairs, and is available as a three-credit course for graduate students anywhere in the University of Minnesota system. In years past, students from all manner of PhD and MA programs have participated,  including those from public policy, international development, human rights, law, public health, history and sociology. Humphrey School master’s students students may count this course towards  their final professional paper or capstone project, should they take this class in the final year of their program.

Entry into this class is by application only, so as to ensure high levels of background suitability, motivation, and engagement. Interested students should consider taking the following courses, or their equivalents, to strengthen their applications:

  • Working in Teams (PA 5081), 0.5 credits
  • Presentation Skills (PA 5926), 1 credit
  • Data Visualization (PA 5929), 1.5 credits
  • Statistics for Public Affairs (PA 5031), 3 credits
  • Qualitative Methods for Policy Analysis (PA 5041, 3 credits)

Application process

Please send cover letter, CV, and the names of two University of Minnesota faculty references to Laura Noble ( by October 15, 2018.

Your letter and CV should highlight your background in human rights-related scholarship or practice, along with at least one of the following: language skills and area studies; legal analysis; statistics; qualitative research skills; report-editing and writing; and program evaluation.

This year’s projects (Spring 2019): 

Topics to be determined in fall 2018 in conjunction with human rights organizations. This section will be updated as soon as there is something to report.

Previous years’ projects:

Spring 2018

12 graduate students from public affairs, political science and law prepared reviews of the data & scholarly literature on public opinion towards select human rights issues in the US. They presented their findings to HRW in New York.

Final 2018 reports:

A Summary of Available Data (as of April 2018) on US Public Opinion Towards:

Spring 2017 

14 graduate students worked on three evaluation-related projects, including a survey of monitoring, evaluation and learning practices in peer organizations; an evaluation of the impact of HRW’s reporting on police abuse in Brazil and India; and an evaluation of HRW’s recurring recommendation for the creation of an “international commission of inquiry” in specific countries. They presented their findings to HRW in New York, and one member of the team continued as an HRW summer intern.

Final 2017 Reports: Confidential.

Spring 2016

4 graduate students prepared a report  on the theory and practice of “budget analysis for human rights.” You can read a summary of the project here, and read an academic article based on this research in the Journal of Human Rights Practice. They presented their findings to HRW staff in New York, and one member of the team continued as an HRW summer intern.

Final 2016 Report:

Spring 2015

10 graduate students prepared reports on alternative research methods. They presented their findings to HRW in New York, and one member of the team continued as an HRW summer intern.

Final 2015 Reports: