See UD's plans to return to teaching, learning, research and experiential learning on campus this fall with measures in place to promote safety and lessen the risk of COVID-19 spread.

Skip to main content


Human Rights Initiatives, Research, Faculty and Recognitions

The University of Dayton is a pioneer in human rights education. It started the country's first undergraduate human rights program in 1998 and offered one of the nation's first bachelor's degrees in human rights studies in 2008.

The University committed in 2013 to the process of establishing a human rights center.

The University of Dayton, through the human rights studies program, has organized local, national and international conferences focusing on the rights of the vulnerable and exploited: children, women, migrants, refugees and trafficked persons.

The Social Practice of Human Rights conference in October 2015 featured representatives of leading human rights organizations, philanthropic foundations and universities, including the Center for Law, Justice and Society (Dejusticia), the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, the Global Fund for Women, the International Rights Funders Group, U.S. Human Rights Network, USAID, the Center for Economic and Social Rights, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Disability Rights Fund, the Wikimedia Foundation and the NAACP, among others. The conference featured cutting-edge research on human rights advocacy and sessions on sustainable development, climate justice, corporate social responsibility, foundation funding of human rights and development projects, and covered the 17 new sustainable development goals.

Current and former representatives from the United Nations, Amnesty International USA, Human Rights Watch, WITNESS, Doctors Without Borders and World Peace Foundation were among those attending the Social Practice of Human Rights conference at the University of Dayton in October 2013 to take a critical look at the future of human rights. Attendees came from 15 nations.

Emmy Award-winning musician, author and philanthropist Peter Buffett performed to benefit the University of Dayton human rights studies program in November 2013.

In 2012, the College of Arts and Sciences received a $100,000 gift from Peter McGrath, a university alumnus, to stimulate and sustain human rights research.

Also in 2012, the human rights studies program entered into a partnership with Catholic Relief Services under the auspices of the Scholars in Global Solidarity initiative. CRS invited the university to participate in recognition of the Human Rights Studies program's achievements in the areas of human rights education and research.

At the request of local and state law enforcement agencies and social service organizations, the human rights studies program took a leadership role in the creation of a regional anti-trafficking coalition — Abolition Ohio — under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Campaign to Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking. Human Rights Studies faculty and students were instrumental in the advocacy effort that led to the enactment of Ohio Senate Bill 235, which made human trafficking a criminal offense in Ohio.

In 2008 the human rights studies program, in collaboration with the Center for Victims of Torture, organized an event to advocate for a presidential executive order on prisoner treatment, torture and cruelty. At the conclusion, University of Dayton President Daniel J. Curran signed a declaration appealing for that executive order. President Obama signed an executive order on prisoner treatment in 2009.

The University honors an individual or organization whose work has contributed substantially to the promotion of the dignity of the human person and the alleviation of the suffering of the human family with internationally acclaimed Archbishop Oscar Romero Human Rights Award. Award recipients include:

* Juan Mendez, for his work with Human Rights Watch and the Inter-American Institute for Human Rights

* Casa Alianza, the Central American affiliate of Covenant House, for its defense of street children

* Radhika Coomaraswamy, for her work as UN special rapporteur on violence against women

* Juan Guzman, for his courageous prosecution of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet

* Bernard Kuchner, for his humanitarian work with Doctors without Borders

* The department of Migration and Refugee Services of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, for its work with migrants, refugees and trafficked persons

* Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga of Honduras, for his work with Caritas Internationalis, a Vatican-based umbrella organization for 160 charity organizations working on six continents.


News and Communications Staff