Human Rights Institute

The Human Rights Institute (HRI) at Kean University broadens the university's longstanding efforts to promote the awareness of human rights issues and violations across the globe, and to develop initiatives designed to help eradicate these atrocities and their root causes. The HRI is housed in the Nancy Thompson Library and includes a state-of-the-art gallery highlighting issues, artwork and publications related to human rights worldwide.  The facility’s architects recently received a Design Honor Award from the New Jersey Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.


As the leader in teacher education in New Jersey, Kean University is well positioned to make a significant impact through our network of educators in shaping the hearts and minds of tomorrow’s leaders at an impressionable age. The HRI’s groundbreaking work is recognized as a major regional and national resource for developing curricula, seminars and other materials aimed at promoting understanding and tolerance across ethnic, racial, religious and other barriers and inspiring action.


In May 2010, the HRI formally opened its doors at a dedication ceremony featuring Kerry Kennedy, co-founder of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights, one of the world's leading advocacy centers for ongoing education related to human rights issues and individual empowerment. For the opening, Ms. Kennedy also lent to the HRI Gallery her powerful and inspiring creation, "Speak Truth to Power." The exhibit featured photographs of individual human rights champions from around the globe--persons Ms. Kennedy personally interviewed for the accompanying publication "Speak Truth to Power." The exhibit ran through December 2010 and was viewed by thousands of students and visitors.


A Call to Action

As we know from humanity’s history and witness in our daily lives, we do live in a world still rife with oppression, bigotry, hatred and genocide in all their insidious forms.  Unfortunately, hateful words coupled with evil actions have produced horrors in all corners of the globe throughout history. 

The HRI is Kean University’s call to action.  We have an obligation to teach, to educate and most importantly, to act on behalf of the powerless. 

Kean University students have responded to that call and formed a Human Rights Club.  The students have participated in and organized various events, including fundraisers, lectures and conferences on and off campus.  The student group has raised more than $15,000 to purchase solar cookers for women in refugee camps in Darfur and the Congo and sponsored events to raise awareness of child slavery and human trafficking worldwide.  The club has also participated in Haiti earthquake relief efforts.

Building on a Proud Tradition

Kean University has a long history and impressive record throughout New Jersey and the region for promoting awareness and prejudice reduction through our Holocaust Resource Center.

Kean University was a pioneer among educational institutions in the United States through the creation of the Holocaust Resource Center in 1982.  The Holocaust Resource Center has among its vast resources available for research and study more than 300 videotaped interviews with 250 Holocaust survivors and 3,000 books in its collection. 

HRI Activities

The HRI pursues its mission through several initiatives including workshops, curricular offerings, training, and the development of major symposia and conferences on peace and human rights. One of the HRI’s signature events is the annual international conference on human rights.  Darfur: the First Genocide of the 21st Century was the topic of the inaugural conference in 2008.  Nicholas Kristof, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner and columnist with The New York Times, and former Sudanese slave Simon Deng examined the ongoing atrocities in Darfur through eyewitness accounts. 

In 2009, the Human Rights Institute turned its attention to the complicated and controversial issue of Slavery in the 21st Century. With more than 27 million people enslaved worldwide today, Kean brought together experts expose the prevalence and the horrors of this issue, and educated the audience on steps that can be taken to combat slavery. 

The conference featured presentations from Dr. Kevin Bales, international founder of Free the Slaves, as well as Ishmael Beah, a former child soldier and author of the critically-acclaimed autobiographical novel A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Child Soldier. 

In 2010, Combating Hatred examined the issue and effect of hate speech with Morris Dees, founder and chief trial counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

In 2011, Immigration: A Melting Pot No More? focused on the changing nature and divisive issue of immigration in modern America. The conference featured a diverse panel of immigration experts, including former U.S. Ambassador John Bolton and New York Times Columnist Lawrence Downes, who shared truly divergent views on the subject. 

In 2012, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sheryl WuDunn and internationally recognized activist Dr. Tererai Trent explored the conference theme of Creating Opportunity through Education: Empowering Women in the Developing World to Combat Oppression.

The theme of the 6th Annual International Conference on Human Rights is #ENOUGH! - Affecting Change from the Frontlines to Your Newsfeed. The keynote will be provided by John Prendergast, a human rights activist and best-selling author who has worked for peace in Africa for more than 25 years. He is co-founder of the Enough Project, an initiative to end genocide and crimes against humanity affiliated with the Center for American Progress.




Human Rights Institute
Nancy Thompson Library, 2nd floor
T: 908-737-4673
Kean University - 1000 Morris Avenue, Union, New Jersey 07083 - 908-737-KEAN (5326) - Campus Map - Directions - Directory