Interview with Dean Jennifer L Mnookian from The Promise Institute

September 5, 2017

A special screening of “The Promise” was held on August 24th. The event was organized for the Consular Corps and international organizations. Special guests included leadership members of the Promise Institute on Human Rights at UCLA School of Law and other human rights leaders. We had the privilege of speaking with Dean Jennifer L Mnookian from The Promise Institute. Read the interview below:

Will the Institute be up and running for the academic year 2017-2018?  Will it have a director?  If so, will that director be a human rights lawyer or expert?

We are up and running!

We are still working to put our full team in place, yet The Promise Institute has a very robust program of classes, guest speakers and events for the 2017-18 academic year.

New course offerings will focus on the International Criminal Court; analysis of leading human rights cases from around the globe; and a clinical program supporting human rights activists in Honduras. Guest speakers this year will include the makers of the forthcoming Armenian Genocide documentary “Intent to Destroy,” as well as leaders from the European Court of Justice and the United Nations.

The first faculty director of The Promise Institute is Asli Bâli, an outstanding scholar and teacher in the area of human rights and international law. She is also the director of the multi-disciplinary UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies and the co-editor of an important new book in the field of comparative law, Constitution Writing, Religion and Democracy.

Our assistant director is Jessica Peake, who has served as director of our International and Comparative Law Program and is involved in important human rights efforts in Africa and East Asia, as well as ensuring that our students get terrific opportunities

We are currently conducting an international search for our first executive director.

What kind of programming will be offered?

The Promise Institute will offer a rich mix of classes, symposia and conferences, and opportunities to collaborate with campus, regional and global human rights advocates and organizations.

As examples, we are working on student research partnerships with organizations such as the Red Cross, the UNESCO Slavery Project, the Armenian Legal Center for Justice and Human Rights, and International Bridges to Justice, an agency started by one of our alumna.

We are also exploring collaborations on human rights projects with UCLA departments including Public Policy, Public Health and the School of Theater, Film and Television.

Last but certainly not least, we will deepen our already strong faculty and curricular commitment to human rights with additional classes and clinics; events and publications to advance human rights scholarship; and fellowships to help our graduates gain positions with leading human rights organizations.

Will there be an emphasis on studying modern day genocides since the film “The Promise” inspired the creation of the Institute?

The Promise” was an indelible depiction of a genocide whose origins, history and lingering impacts have been suppressed. The documentary “Intent to Destroy” will, I am certain, shed even stronger light on the terrible tragedy and the alarming effort to cover it up.

These films and the people who made them are a tremendous inspiration to us. Promise Institute students and faculty will examine contemporary human rights abuses, mass immigrations and related issues to understand their causes and origins, and ultimately work towards ways to reduce the human suffering that results from political upheaval and violence.

What are your goals for the Institute?

In the next few years, we intend to see The Promise Institute emerge as a leading center for human rights work in Southern California, with powerful collaborations and allies across the UCLA campus, the country and the world.

We hope to build on our existing strengths to become one of the top law school centers for human rights law and policy; to develop generations of leaders who will help to address the world’s most pressing crises; to be a focal point for thought leadership on international law and human rights; and to bridge gaps between academic disciplines to more fully understand, address and ultimately prevent human rights crises.

Will there be a special degree designation for law students? Or is it a concentration of study?

UCLA Law already offers students a specialization in International and Comparative Law, under which our students can specialize in human rights. The Promise Institute will add to our existing strengths in this area by bringing in leading scholars, practitioners and policy makers to contribute to our curriculum.

Are current human rights law courses offered for first-year law students or are classes for 2nd/3rd year law students? Will the Institute significantly expand the current number of courses offered?

We are expanding and deepening our courses and are developing extraordinary new clinical opportunities – which already include activities in Asia, Africa and Central America – for all of our students.

Will the Institute offer opportunities for engaging undergraduates interested in human rights law?

It is an explicit part of our mission to work across the UCLA campus to develop a robust educational program in human rights. Many of the symposia, panels and talks The Promise Institute sponsors will be open to undergraduates. It also is possible that some of our courses in human rights will be open to some undergraduate enrollment.

Will there be internship opportunities?

As a great law school at a public university, it is in our DNA to create impactful opportunities for our students. We are working with regional, national, and international partners to create great internship programs.