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University of Pittsburgh    
2022-2023 Undergraduate Catalog 
  Jun 12, 2024
2022-2023 Undergraduate Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Human Rights and Social Justice Certificate

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The Undergraduate Certificate in Human Rights and Social Justice 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 poverty, race, ethnicity, gender, sex, sexual orientation, religion, ability, and age, both past and present. It equips students with the understanding 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 communities and in future careers and public service.  

The certificate is designed around five thematically-specific learning objectives. Upon completion, students should be able to:

  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.

These objectives are thematic variations of broader objectives outlined in the UCIS Global Learning and Engagement Rubric. Global learning is a critical analysis of and an engagement with complex, interdependent global systems and legacies (such as natural, physical, social, cultural, economic, and political) and their implications for people’s lives and the earth’s sustainability. Through global learning, students should: a) become informed, open-minded, and responsible people who are attentive to diversity across the spectrum of differences, b) seek to understand how their actions affect both local and global communities, and c) address the world’s most pressing and enduring issues collaboratively and equitably.

The certificate requirements entail two foundation courses (including one from outside the student’s home discipline), four electives (including two from outside the student’s home discipline), and a Capstone Digital Portfolio project. Academic requirements are described in detail in the sections below.

Elective Courses (12 Credits)

Students must select four elective courses, including no more than two from the home discipline. The elective courses focus on specific human rights violations (such as classism, racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, etc.), as well as specific responses, solutions, and skills (for example child rights advocacy, LGBTI movements, civil rights law, rights-based development, etc.). These courses may concentrate on particular context and parts of the world, or may be comparative or international in scope. They include:

  • Approved undergraduate courses whose catalog descriptions map to at least one of the stated learning objectives or otherwise reference human rights or social justice.  The list of more than 60 illustrative courses spans 17 departments and schools.
  • Any foundation courses not applied to required foundation course credits, with opportunities for assignments applying general principles to more specific context or problems.  
  • Pop-up and mini courses related to human rights and social justice issues (variable credit)
  • Internships, community-based research, and other experiential learning, as well as study abroad programs with approved content
  • Graduate courses (by permission)


Capstone Requirement: Human Rights Digital Portfolio

In addition to course credit, students will further personalize their education through a required capstone in the form a “digital portfolio.” The use of the digital portfolio mechanism has become a key tool by which the Global Studies Center assesses learning outcomes aligned with certificate objectives. It allows students to integrate insights from engagement with the range of programming relevant to their certificate experience, thus ensuring a more comprehensive and cohesive learning experience. Specifically, the “Human Rights Digital Portfolio” required for this certificate enables students to document their work on human rights and social justice in fulfillment of certificate requirements, draw out key themes and learning outcomes that connect those courses and experiences, reflect on their learning experience, and develop their writing and presentation abilities. The portfolio also highlights student involvement on campus and in the city through co-curricular engagement, and integrates working with diverse communities and engaging with diverse opinions. Students may use the Capstone to take different approaches to focus the certificate around specific interests, for example: particular human rights and social justice issues such as poverty or racism; regional or national human rights issue comparisons; specific types of human rights actions and skills such as advocacy, research or monitoring; and cross-cultural issues and approaches, including through experiential learning opportunities.

Total Credits: 18

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