New Masters Program on Human Rights

By Abby Anderko

Starting next fall, Catholic University’s new Master of Arts in Human Rights program will welcome its first class of students. This new program from the Institute of Human Ecology, which can be completed within one year, was approved by the University last year and will focus on Human Rights from a distinctly Catholic perspective. The program, according to its website, will focus on areas that will help students to better understand the legal structure, anthropology, natural law of rights, and the intersection of Catholic social thought in human rights to better prepare students to bring these ideas out into the greater community.

According to a pamphlet handed out by the Institute for Human Ecology, “the Masters of Arts Human Rights responds to these observations through a program designed to equip students to understand the nature of human rights, prepare them to articulate, and advocate for, a sound understanding of human rights in domestic and international fora.”

The director of the program is William Saunders, graduate of Harvard Law School and faculty fellow at the Institute of Human Ecology. Saunders throughout his career has had great experience, having worked with human rights for 30 years. On top of working with organizations such as Americans United for Life and the Human Rights Council, Saunders also founded the Sudan Relief and Rescue, and teaches in Michael Novak’s Free Society Seminar in Slovakia on human rights.

Saunders believes that a program like this, based on the Catholic perspective, is unique to Washington D.C., as it focuses not only on the faith and reason perspective, but also what human rights looks like in the legal landscape. The program uses natural law papal encyclicals, Christian anthropology of the human person, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“Public discourse centers around claims or assertions around human rights, and that discourse is impoverished by lacking Catholic perspective,” said Saunders.

Representatives from the program have been going around to classrooms speaking to students and promoting this new program. The Institute of Human Ecology has been promoting this program through flyers around campus, as well as through a video of a conversation between Saunders and Princeton University professor Robert George on Human Rights and another video on their website.

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