The Center for Human Rights offers the undergraduate Certificate in Human Rights, awarded by the College of Law, the Center's administrative home. 

Human rights purport that all people deserve to live life with dignity; that human beings are owed the protection of these rights simply because they are human.  Universal human rights apply to all equally and without discrimination. They encompass civil and political rights; economic, social, and cultural rights; and apply to both individuals and groups. The rights set forth in human rights doctrines, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are interrelated, interdependent, and indivisible.

The Certificate in Human Rights involves an integrated, specific course of study that includes an introduction to foundational concepts in human rights as they have been informed by political, ethical, moral, legal, and historical thought. Through the curriculum students explore specific, pressing human rights topics from inter-disciplinary perspectives, identify solutions to global challenges, learn to translate foundational human rights concepts into effective advocacy, and strengthen their ability to communicate with academic and non-academic audiences.   

The Certificate in Human Rights provides preparation for a future in which students can apply knowledge gained to their professional career or field of study and one in which they learn to appreciate the value of empathy, social responsibility, and engaged global citizenship.

The Certificate benefits students interested in careers in government, social services, the non-profit sector, business, and education, as well as those who intend to pursue law school or other professional or graduate degrees. (Click here to read about current Iowa Law students who earned the Certificate and the role it played in helping them prepare for law school.)  

Learning Outcomes

Students will be able to:
  • critically analyze real-world global challenges from a human rights perspective
  • articulate creative and effective solutions to real-world global challenges from inter-disciplinary perspectives by applying human rights principles, advocacy strategies, and tactics grounded in the basic concepts of human dignity, non-discrimination, equality, diversity, and pluralism
  • identify and trace the impact of the major events that have led to the formation of contemporary human rights concepts, norms, and institutions
  • explain the historical underpinnings of international human rights advocacy and international institutions that emerged in response to doctrines of racial superiority, inequality, discrimination, imperialism, and conflict during the 20th century  
  • apply human rights frameworks to other fields of study, including student’s primary major and professional work
  • integrate concepts from other fields of study into their human rights coursework
  • critically analyze the major scholarly debates about human rights, past and present
  • articulate justifications of human rights frameworks and regimes as well as critiques of discourses on, and approaches to, human rights
  • explain foundational international human rights legal concepts and the interpretation and application of norms as well as the limits of the law in advancing human rights
  • identify human rights violations based on existing international human rights legal frameworks
  • identify the basic operational functions of international and domestic legal regimes involved with the promulgation, promotion, and protection of modern human rights standards
  • analyze and evaluate the relationship of human rights to individuals, governments, corporations, and civil society organizations and to analyze and evaluate the role of each in the promotion and protection of human rights and in relationship to other social priorities
  • identify specific target audience(s) with capacity to raise awareness about and to mitigate human rights abuses and to effectively communicate desired actions and outcomes to these diverse audiences in both academic and/or non-academic settings 
  • develop critical thinking, reading, listening, writing, research, and analytical skills

Program Requirements

The following requirements apply to students declaring the certificate during or after the Fall 2020 semester. Students who declared the certificate prior to Fall 2020 and who wish to pursue the new requirements, should contact

The certificate requires 18 s.h. of coursework in the following areas.  

Foundations in Human Rights
All of these: 

Contemporary Global Issues in Human Rights
These courses allow students the opportunity to explore human rights-related issues in depth. 
6 s.h. from these (repeatable with different topics):

Human Rights in Practice
One of these*: 

(Click here to read about Praxis students’ experience in Washington D.C.)

*Please note that if you wish to fulfill this requirement without incurring an additional program fee, you should plan to take HRTS:3910 Human Rights Advocacy during a fall semester.  

How do I enroll and earn the certificate?

Follow the instructions (below) specific to your student status, and contact Jo Butterfield (, the advisor for the Certificate Program.

Current University of Iowa Students
Declare your intention to earn the Certificate on MyUI under Student Information, Programs of Study. Students are encouraged to make an appointment with the certificate advisor to develop an individual plan of study that complements their degree program and career objectives. 

Graduates of the University of Iowa
If you hold a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa students you need to submit a re-entry form, which can be completed through the University of Iowa admissions website.

In the dropdown box, select the Certificate in Human Rights as your degree objective.

Graduates from other Universities
If you hold a Bachelor’s degree from another university you need to submit an undergraduate transfer application, which can be found on the University of Iowa admissions website.

In the dropdown box, select the Certificate in Human Rights as your degree objective.

About Us

Education & Student Support, Advisor Human Rights Certificate: Jo Butterfield
609 Jefferson Building

Certificate Director: Brian Farrell
Associate Director of the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights

Program Requirements (Prior to Fall 2020)

The following requirements apply to students who declared the certificate between Fall 2016 and the start of the Fall 2020 semester.  

The certificate requires 18 s.h. of coursework in the following areas.  

Philosophical foundations and contemporary issues in human rights (9 s.h.):
HRTS:2115 IS:2115  Introduction to Human Rights 3 s.h.
PHIL:3430 Philosophy of Human Rights 3 s.h.
HIST:4101 History of Human Rights 3 s.h.

Human rights in practice (total of 9 s.h.):
HRTS:3906 Global Crises in Human Rights (previously Human Rights Systems: Institutions and Mechanisms Enforcing and Implementing Human Rights) 3 s.h.
HRTS:3910/IS:3910 Human Rights Advocacy 3 s.h.
HRTS:3920 Seminar in Human Rights Praxis: Supervised Internship 3 s.h.*

Elective courses:
HRTS:3905/IS:3905 Topics in Human Rights 1 s.h.**

*Students may substitute three Topics in Human Rights courses for this course requirement. Contact the certificate program advisor for more information.

**UICHR offers a series of topical courses under the title “Topics in Human Rights.” These 1 credit-hour courses allow students the opportunity to explore human rights-related issues in depth, either over the course of a semester, or as part of a short, conference-based course. Past topics have included refugee resettlement and policy, community development, transitional justice, and human rights in the academy.

These and requirements for students enrolling prior to fall 2016 can also be found in The University of Iowa General Catalog.