Major and Minor

The human rights major consists of thirty hours of coursework, a second major or a minor, and at least eleven hours in any 1 foreign language. At least twelve hours in addition to the core courses must be taken at the advanced level (3000 or above). No more than 6 hours taken for the human rights major can be counted towards any other major or minor.

  • Core Courses (12 hours)
    Students must complete 4 required courses (HIST 3301/HRTS 3301 America's Dilemma: The Struggle for Human Rights; WGST 3310/HRTS 3310 Gender and Human Rights; HRTS 4385 Internship in Human Rights OR HRTS 4399 Undergraduate Research; and HRTS 4343 Ethics and Human Rights). It is suggested to take the courses in the order listed above.

  • Human Rights Track (9 hours)
    Students must complete 3 courses from either the Gender and Human Rights Track or the Public Policy and Human Rights Track. Courses in either track must be taken from at least 2 departments and include at least 6 hours at the 3000 level or above.

  • Electives (9 hours)
    Students must complete 3 elective courses from the Approved Elective List (or other courses as approved by the Director). The electives must include courses from at least 2 departments and include at least 3 hours at the 3000 level or above.

  • Second Major or a Minor in a related Field
    Given the interdisciplinary nature of the study of Human Rights, students are required to complete a second major or minor in a related field.

  • Language
    Students must successfully complete at least 11 hours in any 1 foreign language or demonstrate proficiency through testing or other approved means.

The human rights minor consists of a minimum of 18 hours of coursework, including the required course Human Rights: American's Dilemma (HRTS 3301/HIST 3301). The remaining 15 hours must been taken from the Approved Elective List; at least 9 hours of these must be at the 3000 level or above. In addition to HRTS/HIST 3301, no more than 2 courses from any 1 department may be taken as electives unless pre-approval is given by the Director.

The minor also requires a commitment of students' effort, time and talent in defense of or in advocacy for human rights.  Students will complete either a twenty-hour service learning placement with a human rights community-based agency (as a component of HRTS/HIST 3301) or will receive independent credit (HIST 4398, 4399) by participating in a SMU Human Rights Program sponsored journey to a location where recent human rights violations have occurred or are occurring (e.g., Cambodia, Rwanda, Poland, Argentina, the U.S.-Mexico border) and completing a research paper on a human rights topic related to the site.

Graduation with Distinction is an honor that recognizes the highest achieving and most exceptional human rights majors.

To become eligible for consideration, students must first complete at least 15 hours of human rights coursework (including HIST 3301 / HRTS 3301) with a 3.7 GPA in human rights courses and a 3.5 GPA overall. At that point, students interested in pursuing distinction should contact the SMU Human Rights office.

In order to graduate with distinction in human rights, a student must:

1. Fulfill all usual provisions for the human rights major, including 30 hours of coursework, a second major or minor, and at least 11 hours in a foreign language.

2. Complete all human rights core courses with a GPA of 3.7.

3. Earn a 3.7 GPA in human rights courses and a 3.5 GPA overall.

4. Successfully realize an SMU Engaged Learning project that focuses on a clear human rights issue and is overseen by a faculty member affiliated with or approved by SMU Human Rights. Under some circumstances, a project of equivalent focus and scope pursued through another official SMU-related opportunity (e.g. Human Rights Fellowship, Hamilton Research Scholars, McNair Scholars, Maguire Public Service Fellowship, etc.) may be used to fulfill this requirement.

When all the above requirements are met, a final decision about distinction is made by SMU Human Rights staff in coordination with selected SMU faculty and the Dedman College Dean’s Office. Questions about distinction can be directed to SMU Human Rights Associate Director Dr. Brad Klein at