This course is offered from 5-16th July 2015 at Columbia University in New York. It is taught by UNSW’s Justine Nolan and a number of American human rights lawyers and practitioners. It examines the operation of human rights law in practice in international, regional and domestic (primarily the U.S). context. The course draws together leading U.S. and international human rights lawyers to provide cutting-edge case studies from U.S. courts, regional human rights commissions and the UN system. It also provides students with doctrinal foundations in international human rights law and its incorporation into domestic law, as well as an introduction to the U.S. Bill of Rights and civil rights law. The course includes case studies on current human rights issues relevant to both US and Australia. It encourages students to critically reflect on the efficacy of key institutions, actors and strategies to promote and protect human rights at home and abroad. The program will include (subject to availability) field visits to the United Nations and other cultural institutions.

What is this course about?

This course is taught at Columbia University, New York and focuses on the practical application of human rights law. We examine human rights issues of particular relevance to the US including marriage equality, refugees, terrorism and civil rights. It is taught in conjunction with a wide variety of US based human rights practitioners including US academics and representatives from NGOs like Human Rights Watch and the Centre for Constitutional Rights.

Why does this subject interest you?

The US has long been at the forefront of human rights protection but more recently has taken a combative approach to some rights. Studying these issues through both a US and Australian lens makes the comparison of human rights application really interesting. We usually undertake a couple of fieldtrips including to the UN and the quality of guest speakers is stellar. The focus of this course is all about the implementation and practical application of human rights both in the US and abroad.

 Do you have any advice to students taking this course?

This course offers amazing opportunities for students not only to visit NY but to see human rights in action.  However to get the most out of this intensive students need to be prepared and do reading prior to the start of the course. This way they can make more of their leisure time in NY!

  How will this course be relevant in the future?

Students with a wide variety of backgrounds have taken this course. Some were on a dedicated human rights career path but others just took the opportunity to get to NY. However this course has managed to ‘convert’ a number of students to further engage in human rights study or think about how they might engage with these issues in their commercial law practice. This course offers students the opportunity to meet with a number of US practitioner working in human rights and UNSW alumni working in NY on human rights.


Student: Preeta Seshachari (2013)

What was the best thing about New York Summer School?

It’s hard to identify just one thing that I loved about the summer school program. However I have to say it was a great experience to make a home out of Columbia University for two weeks. You could begin the day by exploring the beautiful campus or by going for a leisurely stroll in the nearby Central Park. Then your class would begin, which consisted of engaging discussions with guest speakers who were experts in their field. After class, you would be left to your own devices and have an opportunity to do some further exploring. At the end of the day you would come back to your dorm in Carmen Hall and get to chat to your roommate about all the amazing things you got to see and do during the day. For me, that lifestyle was the best part of the New York Summer School experience.

Why did you decide to go to New York Summer School?

The course content appealed to me. I was already in the process of completing LAWS3182 (International Human Rights and Advocacy) and wished to further my legal education in the field. Additionally, I had heard great things about the course from students who had already taken it and I was eager to visit New York.

How do you think that your time in New York enhanced your legal education?

Justine Nolan, our accompanying lecturer, arranged talks by exceptional guest speakers. They would come to class to spark discussion and we would ask them questions and learn more about their work in New York and what they were doing overseas. For those considering a career in human rights, it was a great opportunity to learn about not only the perks, but also the challenges of working within their respective fields. The quality of guest speakers was extraordinary. Justine even managed to arrange a visit from the former United States Assistant Secretary of State, Michael Posner.

Would you recommend this summer school to others?

Absolutely! Without a doubt New York Summer School was the highlight of my tertiary education. Justine was a fantastic accompanying lecturer, the guest speakers were inspiring and I had a lot of fun with my cohort.