D.C. Human Rights Seminar


UW Bothell September 6 & 7 from 8:30am-4:30pm
Washington, D.C. September 9-15

The Capitol Building in Washington D C

The Washington, D.C. Human Rights Seminar (BIS 403) is a part of the human rights emphasis in the Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences program and will be taught as a research seminar for the academic year 2018. The course has been a part of the curriculum since 1991 and focuses on the construction of human rights policy at the national and international levels, with a particular emphasis on engaging with the policy-making process in Washington, D.C. Students spend a week in the U.S. Capital, meeting with legislators, federal agencies (such as the Department of Defense and the Department of State), human rights NGOs, foreign embassies, and think tanks to investigate human rights violations and possible policy responses. The course will study United States human rights policy, its formation, articulation, and effects on countries and peoples around the world.  Our approach will be interdisciplinary with an emphasis on how power is produced, distributed, and consumed within the policy process.  Attention will also be given to the philosophical, historical, cultural, and economic aspects of human rights and the human rights movement in the modern era.  The course will promote the analytical skills associated with original research in the policy process. This course also satisfies the Interdisciplinary Practice and Reflection (IPR) requirement.


Ron Krabill is Associate Professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences where he teaches across cultural studies, media studies, African studies, and human rights. His research examines the relationships between politics, human rights, and media in South Africa, discourses of global citizenship in higher education, and critical, community-based pedagogies in media production. He is the author of Starring Mandela and Cosby: Media and the End(s) of Apartheid (Chicago, 2010) and his published articles on human rights issues include topics such as media during and after apartheid, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa, and human rights media campaigns such as KONY 2012. Professor Krabill has a B.A. in Communication with a minor in Peace & Conflict Studies from Goshen College, and both an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Sociology and Historical Studies from The New School for Social Research in New York City.  He is an affiliate faculty member in the UW Center for Human Rights.


  1. Reading in August and early September.
  2. Two full-day workshops on campus (Sept. 6 & 7 from 8:30-4:30 pm).
  3. Six intensive days of seminars and briefings in Washington, D.C. (Sept. 9-15). A policy research paper that is due in early December (TBD).
  4. The presentation of your work to the UW Bothell Community in a poster session (TBD).


Date Event

April 13

Application Due (Online)

End of April

Final Selection of Participants


Meet & Greet 4:00pm-5:00pm

June 1

$675 Payment Due

Sept. 6 & 7

UW Bothell Campus 8:30am-4:30pm

Sept. 9-15

Washington, D.C.
(7pm on the 9th, until 12:00 noon on the 16th)

Dec. TBD

Policy Research Paper Due

Dec. TBD

Poster Session & Human Rights Celebration

Candles in a ring of barbed wire, symbol of human rights and hopeCOURSE THEME:

Human rights have emerged in the last 60 years as a critical normative dimension of international politics and policy. This course will examine the underlying philosophical, political, and social assumptions of human rights, especially in the context of public policy in U.S. institutions.  Students will engage questions such as the following: What is the relation between international human rights and domestic U.S. rights? Who are the main actors—governmental, non-governmental—who set human rights policy? What are the current issues that challenge the human rights agenda in U.S. domestic and foreign policy?  


Students will be engaged in intensive seminars and briefings with a variety of institutions and policy makers at a variety of levels. During the day we’ll walk and use Washington’s excellent subway system to visit the Pentagon, the State Department, Congressional offices, and policy institutions of various political orientations. For example, we’ll attend briefings at institutions such as the Friends Committee on National Legislation (the “Quaker Lobby”), Amnesty International, the U.S. Institute of Peace, the Holocaust Memorial Museum, the United Nations, the Heritage Foundation, the Brookings Institution, and hear from a long and distinguished list of lobbyists and activists. The week is an intense group experience and students will need to be ready to focus and engage for the entire time. There will be very little spare time for sightseeing; it is strongly recommended that students who wish to do so extend their stay in the city. 

"Going on the Washington, D.C. Human Rights Seminar completely changed me. Having the opportunity to meet with many different government officials to talk about current issues affecting the United States as well as other countries is something I will never forget. We also had the opportunity to meet with a number of nonprofit human rights agencies to learn about their perspectives and work being done. This experience led me to look at myself as a citizen in the United States, as well as my county as a whole, in a completely different way and has made me more passionate about public policy. I would do this program again in heart beat if given the option because this is truly one of those experiences you walk away from as a completely different person." -Heidi Hannah ('16, Global Studies)

Hear other D.C. Seminar Alumni stories on our webpage.

THE CONFERENCE CENTER: Students in front of William Penn House

The William Penn House, 515 East Capitol Street, in Washington, D.C. is a Quaker hospitality and seminar center on Capitol Hill, in a residential area five blocks from the Capitol Building and Supreme Court. For over a quarter-century, the William Penn House has been a place where “frank, off-the-record discussions with men and women who have committed themselves to government service provide a first-hand encounter with the political scene. Questioning Congressional staff members and department officials on national commitments reveals both the complexity of decision making and the potential for citizen action.” Our lodging and most of our meals will be at the conference center, as well as most of our evening sessions. The accommodations and meals are basic but sufficient.   

COSTS:Washington D.C. subway

  • Room and board at conference center, program fees ($675)
  • Round trip airfare to D.C. (variable; students must arrange travel to D.C. on their own)
  • Texts and materials (approximately $100)
  • Tuition (variable--depends on number of credits for fall quarter)
  • Incidentals and extra day(s) in D.C. (variable; but estimated at $100, other transportation costs including Metro trains and taxis, when necessary ) 
  • Most forms of financial aid can be utilized during participation in the program.  Participants who are on financial aid should contact their campus Financial Aid Office to verify that their awards will apply. For more information about financial aid, read here.

Washington DC Seminar Travel Scholarships

IAS is committed to eliminating financial obstacles to student participation in the DC Seminar and other high-impact learning experiences.  Thanks to the generosity of IAS supporters and the leadership of the IAS Advisory Board, we are currently able to provide a limited number of scholarship for IAS students with financial need. If you are interested in contributing to this scholarship fund, please go HERE>>

BIS 403
Washington D.C.
Human Rights Seminar 5 cr

BIS 403 H.R. Seminar Course Application

Travel Scholarship Application for IAS Students only

Please contact Jung Lee (junglee5@uw.edu) with any questions.