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Dayton Engineer

Connecting science to human rights

By Rachel Carr '20 and Jared Marsh '20

In the fall of 2019, three students and three faculty members traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual Science, Technology, and Human Rights conference. The conference made visible the budding connections between traditional scientists and human rights advocates. The group from UD saw the cutting edge of mapping technology, privacy policy, and public-private partnerships. Similar to our own conference, the Social Practice of Human Rights, this conference combined practitioner, activist, and educator perspectives.

In addition to attending sessions, the team from UD led two panels. The first panel, “Connecting Space to Human Rights,” discussed the potential of geospatial technology to help prevent human rights abuses, to protect human rights defenders, and to investigate violations. Shelley Inglis, director of the Human Rights Center (HRC), and Umesh Haritashya, the Mann Chair in the Sciences, brought their collaboration at UD into the international conversation.

Titled “Transformative Undergraduate Experiential Learning and Advocacy at the Intersection of Science and Human Rights,” the second panel brought together student perspectives and programmatic insights.  Shelley Inglis moderated the conversation and Kelly Bohrer, Director of Community Relations for the University of Dayton’s School of Engineering (ETHOS Center), shared the institutional perspective. Students Rachel Carr, Jared Marsh, and Marigrace Moses shared their experiences in programs across campus and the globe. 

Rachel Carr and Jared Marsh, student leaders at the HRC, shared some of their reflections about the panel’s topics.

Rachel is a River Steward through UD’s Fitz Center for Leadership in Community and participated in the HRC’s Moral Courage Project. Upon returning from the conference, she shared: 

“I’ve found that experiential learning at UD combines advocacy and education in ways that classes cannot. Advocacy can only be done “in the real world,” so successful advocacy education must be done “in the real world” as well. When I participated in the Human Rights Center’s Moral Courage Project, I conducted interviews with human rights defenders on our southern border and helped produce a podcast to share their stories. In this experience, I came to understand a human rights framework alongside an ethic of advocacy. A human rights framework utilizes a variety of legal doc. These instruments helped me understand the interconnection between rights and within advocacy."

This pairing of education and advocacy is not limited to the Human Rights Center; the transformative power of experiential learning appeared in my education across campus. In the Fitz Center for Leadership in Community, the River Stewards program combines education in water resource protection with community organizing. The program provides classes on scientific concepts and organizing strategies, and then the opportunity to combine the knowledge through projects in Dayton. The capstone projects we work on bring the scientific and social knowledge seamlessly together. My cohort of the program is currently working with community partners to author a children’s book to promote water protection, literacy, and pride of place.  

These experiential learning opportunities have defined my experience at UD and the skill set I will graduate with. Experiential learning works to break down silos on campus, bring students of different backgrounds together, and leverage community to address human rights challenges.” 

Jared is the Student Leader of Campus Engagement and Advocacy at the HRC. Previously, he participated in the Institute of Applied Creativity for Transformation’s Collaboration Accelerator,  the School for International Training and UD’s Honors Program and Global Flyers Program, “India: Agroecology and Food Security in the Himalaya”, and the EPA Pollution Prevention Program. Jared shared:  

“The University of Dayton has been essential in shaping my growth and professional identity. As a former mechanical engineering major, I had an interest in science and math but struggled to connect this in the classroom to my passion for environmental, social, and economic sustainability. It was not until I became involved in experiential learning that I truly found outlets for exploring the intersection between technical work and advocacy.

In the Pollution Prevention Program, I quantified the impact of pollution from a local business on the community. Then, using the power of numbers, I advocated for initiating food donations to food insecure communities while reducing biodegradable waste, which ultimately reduced pollution emissions. This experience, made possible through my work at the Hanley Sustainability Institute, gave me the insight necessary for my work in the Agroecology and Food Security in the Himalaya program. I was with a cohort of students working with local researchers, farmers, and government officials on the impacts of climate crisis, globalization, and government policy on small-scale farmers in India. We were able to combine traditional science with storytelling to learn about these impacts and create resources for communities to combat the harmful effects of pollution. All of this work was deeply rooted in specific communities and culminated in my experience with IACT;  we worked with local organizations to address systemic barriers in the Dayton community. These experiences have taught me the power of listening to co-create solutions with community partners using the intersection of science/technology and human rights."

Rachel Carr is a Dayton native and a student intern at the University of Dayton's Human Rights Center. She is a senior Political Science major, with minors in Sustainability, Energy, and the Environment (SEE) and English; she strives to strengthen community relations and protect the local environment. Rachel directed the podcast "America the Borderland" for the Center's Moral Courage Project and is a River Steward in the Fitz Center for Leadership in Community.

Jared Marsh is pursuing a B.A. in Human Rights Studies graduating in December of 2020. As a former student of Mechanical Engineering, Jared is working to combine his technical and social abilities. Jared has professional and academic experience in the fields of Corporate Sustainability, Climate Change adaptation, and Engineering Aviation. Jared hopes to focus his future academic and professional experience in social and environmental justice.

The students would like to give a special thanks to the University of Dayton Office of Experiential Learning and the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s generous support.

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