About Gateway

Gateway was the community newsletter of Pratt Institute published monthly by the Office of Communications, in the Division of Institutional Advancement through spring 2014. For current Pratt-related news, visit the News page on Pratt’s website.


In SLAS Course Students Use Art and Design to Explore Human Rights

Rachel Pumroy (Communications Design ’12), She Did It For Love, 2011, digital artAs part of the Pratt’s continuing effort to educate the whole person, the Institute offered for the first time in spring semester 2011 an undergraduate elective course on human rights that may be taken to fulfill social science requirements of the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences.  The course was taught by Adjunct Associate Professor Nina McCune, who has been on the Social Science and Cultural Studies faculty for the past six years. “The study of human rights,” McCune explains, “combines the studies of law, history, philosophy, ethics, international relations, education, business, and corporate practices, in addition to environmental, health, and sustainability studies.”

Twelve students were enrolled in the course, representing a cross-section of different majors ranging from writing to the design disciplines to digital arts. The three-credit course met once a week for three intensive hours of discussion in North Hall, and required readings ran from three-to-five 30-page articles a week. In addition, the class invited Nobel Prize nominee Michael Haas, whose textbook, Introduction to Human Rights (Routledge, 2007), was used in the course. Students also heard from a Rwandan genocide survivor and from Human Rights Watch’s Director of Global Initiatives, Minky Wordon.

McCune, who is herself writing a textbook for post-secondary human rights education, hopes to offer the course again in spring 2012. Meanwhile she marvels at her students’  “intelligence, commitment, and compassion” and expresses amazement at the course’s outcomes: “Students’ work goes well beyond naïve understandings of the world’s injustices and grapples quite brilliantly with the complex interplay of the United Nations’ charge of monitoring, promoting, and protecting human rights universally.”

As an example, McCune cites the work of Rachel Pumroy (Communications Design ’12), who came up with a public service announcement to make people aware of the sex trafficking of women and young girls. By not being culturally specific, McCune asserts, Pumroy’s straightforward imagery transcends cultural relativism to evoke a strong reaction among viewers, opening their eyes to this form of human exploitation.

Other student projects ranged from an analysis of potential state complicity in the disappearance of architect Ai Weiwei (in China), and a card game intended to demonstrate the complexity of international decision-making on human rights issues.

Photo: Courtesy of the artist

References (2)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Response
  • Response
    I most absolutely do mark with this to support art and design to investigate human rights. Flexibility and Peace is most loved and it must be left to self of people and ones picked country to explore and decide.

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.