Beginning in fall 2019, Binghamton University will be offering a Master of Science in human rights, marking the first human rights master’s program offered by a school in the SUNY system.

Suzy Lee, program director for the human rights graduate degree and an assistant professor of human development, wrote in an email that the degree was created to match societal needs.

“Development on the program began approximately 3 years ago,” Lee wrote. “That larger project was a response to a perceived need, both at a national, international and local level, for this kind of training — given the types of challenges our world now faces.”

According to Lee, the program is intended to prepare students to work in a wide variety of fields related to social justice.

“Our program is best suited for students who are passionate about social justice, who want to contribute to the social and political transformation occurring in the modern world, to help solve the many challenges humanity now faces,” Lee wrote. “We are expecting our students to become leaders in human rights-related organizations, from local community-based organizations all the way to major international NGOs.”

Lee wrote that the new human rights degree will work within the existing human development program, putting an emphasis on social justice.

“Human development was a natural home for a graduate program in human rights,” Lee wrote. “HDEV is an interdisciplinary, ‘applied’ social science field, where questions of social justice, human rights and social transformation are central.”

The new program will be admitting students on a rolling basis. Students accepted to the program will be required to take nine courses, including human rights and community action classes, and will be required to complete a cumulative capstone project. The program will not consist of specific concentrations.

The University also has several other centers dedicated to human rights, including the Institute for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention (I-GMAP), which deals with similar issues in the capacity of preventing genocides and other mass atrocity abuses, and the Human Rights Institute, which offers lectures, internships and research opportunities.

While the new human rights degree, I-GMAP and the Human Rights Institute (HRI) do have some overlap in regard to the content they cover, such as preventing human rights abuses across the world, the programs are not directly connected, according to Alexandra Moore, co-director of the Human Rights Institute and a professor of English at BU.

“There is no direct connection between I-GMAP and the [master’s], although of course students interested in issues of genocide and mass atrocity prevention may very well want to pursue it,” Moore wrote in an email.

Although the graduate program is new, Lee said University faculty are already active in areas related to human rights, laying the groundwork for the program’s development.

“Our faculty regularly teach, publish and engage in activism on key human rights issues such as racial inequality, education access, refugee and immigrants’ rights, gendered violence, access to health, social movements and economic inequality,” Lee wrote.