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About Us

The Engineering for Human Rights Initiative (EHRI) is a collaborative venture between UConn’s School of Engineering (SoE) and the Gladstein Family Human Rights Institute (HRI) that addresses human rights implications of the most significant challenges in engineering and technology.

Engineering for Human Rights is defined as a paradigm that draws on a universal set of principles to shape ethical obligations and the norms of the engineering profession to mitigate risk, enhance access to the benefits of technology, and redress harms resulting from engineered products or processes, based on five fundamental principles of Distributive justice, Participation, Consideration of duty-bearers, Accountability, and Indivisibility of rights (Chacon-Hurtado et al. 2023).

The Initiative involves 60+ faculty affiliates across departments within the SoE and in UConn’s School of Medicine, School of Social Work, Law School, School of Business, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, and College of Agriculture, Health & Natural Resources. Globally recognized for our efforts at mainstreaming human rights into engineering education and research, we train undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and industry partners through courses and research collaboration with UConn colleagues and international partners. 

The EHRI has six key research areas: 1) Water, Health & Food Security; 2) Product Design, Manufacturing, and Supply Chain Management; 3) Community Planning, Resilience, and Justice for a Changing Environment; 4) Engineering Education and Accessibility Rights; 5) Engineering Substances and Process Sustainability; and 6) Cybersecurity, Privacy and Human Vulnerability.

Research Clusters

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Upcoming Events

Upcoming.

Read about Past ENG-HR Events

ENGR-HRTS 2300 “Engineering for Human Rights” Final Project Showcase – Spring 2024

Design for Freedom: Constructing a Humane Future with Ethical Materials

Design for Freedom: Constructing a Humane Future with Ethical Materials

April 2, 2024 | 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm | The Dodd Center for Human Rights, Konover Auditorium

This event was supported by the Business & Human Rights InitiativeEconomic & Social Rights Program, and Engineering for Human Rights Initiative at the Gladstein Family Human Rights Institute, as well as the Grace Farms Foundation.

About this Event: Are our buildings ethically sourced, as well as sustainably designed? This is the question at the core of Design for Freedom, the movement led by Grace Farms to eliminate forced and child labor from the building materials supply chain. As we confront the climate crisis, we must approach sustainable solutions that address the human suffering endured in the making of building materials, as well as the damage being done to the environment in the process.

This event explored ways in which companies and communities can work together to drive human rights-respecting market transformation and address the challenges and opportunities of ethical decarbonization in the construction sector.

Speakers

Sharon Prince is the CEO and Founder of Grace Farms Foundation. Prince commissioned Pritzker Prize-winning SANAA architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa to design Grace Farms, which has become widely known as a global humanitarian and cultural center located in New Canaan, Connecticut. (Click here to learn more)

Nora Rizzo is the first Ethical Materials Director of Grace Farms Foundation, focusing on the Design for Freedom movement. She serves as Ethical Material Advisor on Design for Freedom Pilot Projects and led the development of the Design for Freedom Toolkit. (Click here to learn more)

Anna Dyson is the Hines Professor of Architecture, with an appointment in the School of Environment (YSE) at Yale University. She teaches design, technology, and theory at the School of Architecture. At Yale, Anna has also founded a new research entity titled CEA - Center for Ecosystems in Architecture. (Click here to learn more)

Following the event, please join us for a catered reception in the Dodd Lounge

Register Here

Collective Struggles in Defense of the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Populations Attacked by the Bolivian State, 2011-2023

Collective Struggles in Defense of the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Populations Attacked by the Bolivian State, 2011-2023

March 26, 2024 | 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm | The Dodd Center for Human Rights, Konover Auditorium

This event is co-sponsored by the Buen Vivir and Collective Healings Initiative, El Institute, the Departments of Anthropology, and Digital Media & Design, Native American and Indigenous Studies, Native American Cultural Programs, as well as the Research Programs on Arts & Human Rights and Global Health & Human Rights at the Gladstein Family Human Rights Institute.

Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui is a prominent Bolivian sociologist, feminist, and activist known for her lifelong dedication and involvement advocating for indigenous rights and social movements. She joins UConn for this major public lecture as the 2024 Gladstein Visiting Professor of Human Rights.

Reception: We welcome you to join us for a catered reception following the event in the Dodd Lounge.

Register Here

Using Public Infrastructure as a Metaphor to Improve Engineering Education

March 6, 2024 | 11:00 am - 12:00 pm | HBL Room 1102

Led by Dr. Walter Lee, Associate Professor of Engineering Education and Director for Research at the Center of Enhancement of Engineering Diversity at Virginia Tech. Organized by the Vergnano Institute for Inclusion.

How do we best support engineering students? Although colleges and universities provide numerous forms of support intended to increase the success of both undergraduate and graduate students, student outcomes and previous research reveal the need for a) more responsive student support and b) more proactive measures to remove barriers. To support this effort, Dr. Lee and collaborators focus on advancing the extent to which the engineering community understands how we support (or fail to support) students from different social groups (e.g., women and students of color). Key to this work is using public infrastructure as a metaphor to highlight opportunities to provide more responsive support systems and structures and to reimagine policies and procedures.

During this talk, Dr. Lee discussed ongoing work as part of two projects funded by the National Science Foundation: one focused on enabling a more responsive support structure at the undergraduate level (Award #1943811) and the other focused on supporting organizational change at the graduate level (Award # 2217640). Reflecting on both projects, he also shared his perspective on the utility of considering many of the challenges in engineering education as infrastructure failures.

 

Bringing Politics into Engineering Education

Bringing Politics into Engineering Education

October 17, 2023 | 12:00pm - 1:30pm | Dodd Center 162

Led by Desen Özkan, Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Organized by the Engineering for Human Rights Initiative.

While engineering has been taught to depict engineering methods as neutral and objective, there is little evidence that engineering exists outside the political sphere. The curriculum is an opportunity to instill sociotechnical ways of thinking such that students can bring their whole selves into the field. Sociotechnical engineering education refers to an engineering paradigm that values the social, political, and economic considerations just as much as the technical (Cech, 2013).

In this talk, Dr Özkan will describe a qualitative research project that examines the experiences of minoritized engineering students enrolled in a sociotechnical curricular revision. She will then describe an engineering project that emphasizes the social, economic, and political contexts into a case of engineering decision-making for an offshore wind project in Connecticut. Ultimately, political engagement in engineering is not new and reflects the changing sociopolitical landscape (Wisnioski, 2012). By depicting the curriculum as sociotechnical, engineering educators can adapt to the changing climate in ways that attract and inspire people who historically have been excluded from engineering. 

Register to attend: https://events.uconn.edu/human-rights-institute/event/52905-bringing-politics-into-engineering-education

The Sustainable Clean Energy Summit: Decarbonizing Society and the Grid

The Sustainable Clean Energy Summit: Decarbonizing Society and the Grid

October 4, 2023 | 9:00am - 4:00pm | Student Union

Organized by University of Connecticut and Eversource Energy Center.

The summit will bring together academic, utility, industry, municipal and legislative experts to discuss the shifting energy landscape and will feature final presentations from six student-led research teams as part of the Eversource-sponsored Clean Energy and Sustainability Innovation Program (CESIP). See more information from the School of Engineering here.

Register to attend: https://uconnuecs.cventevents.com/event/ee786f33-aa19-417b-8acc-ca343d95c2fd/summary

 

“We, the Data” Book Talk with Author Wendy Wong

"We, the Data" Book Talk with Author Wendy Wong

October 3, 2023 | 2:00pm - 3:30pm | Dodd Center 162 (with Zoom modality)

Led by Wendy Wong (University of British Columbia), author of We, the Data: Human Rights in the Digital Age. Organized by the Economic & Social Rights Group (ESRG) with Co-sponsors: HRI Data Hub; UConn Business & Human Rights Initiative; Engineering for Human Rights Initiative; UConn Law; Dept of Computer Science & Engineering.

A rallying call for extending human rights beyond our physical selves—and why we need to reboot rights in our data-intensive world. Our data-intensive world is here to stay, but does that come at the cost of our humanity in terms of autonomy, community, dignity, and equality? In We, the Data, Wendy H. Wong argues that we cannot allow that to happen. Exploring the pervasiveness of data collection and tracking, Wong reminds us that we are all stakeholders in this digital world, who are currently being left out of the most pressing conversations around technology, ethics, and policy. This book clarifies the nature of datafication and calls for an extension of human rights to recognize how data complicate what it means to safeguard and encourage human potential.

Register to attend: https://events.uconn.edu/human-rights-institute/event/51822-we-the-data-a-book-discussion-with-author-wendy

Transportation Challenges and Opportunities for People with Disabilities and Aging Population in Connecticut

Transportation Challenges and Opportunities for People with Disabilities and Aging Population in Connecticut 

February 10, 2021 | Webex

The Engineering for Human Rights Initiative (EHRI) and the Aging Research Interest Group of the Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy (InCHIP) arranged a February 10 (2021) conversation regarding the transportation challenges faced by people with disabilities and the aging population in the state of Connecticut. In attendance were advocates and stakeholders from aging communities and people with disabilities, state and local government, and researchers from the University of Connecticut. The following is a summary of the main challenges and opportunities identified as well as paths for advocacy and research to evaluate and advance the access to work, recreation, and healthcare among other important daily activities for individuals with disabilities and the aging community. 

The conversation at this event was focused on transportation-related social inclusion, and the disproportionate impacts it has on marginalized communities. In particular, the social isolation of seniors and people with disabilities, the lack of access to education facilities, and people with disabilities who are often left behind due to unreliable or disintegrated transit services. Emphasized within this discourse, are the disparities in wealth and economic opportunity across communities in Connecticut. This polarity only worsens these challenges, as it limits access to alternative transportation services such as ride-hailing services and/or travel assistance. The roots of these problems are complex and vary, the following was brought up at the event. The issues addressed can be split into two categories: operational challenges and planning challenges. 

In regards to operational obstacles, Connecticut’s paratransit services are composed of a set of local and decentralized systems that lack coordination. Services like “Dial-A-Ride” are unable to cross different regions and counties, resulting in a fragmented and complicated transportation system for individuals to navigate, especially in rural areas. There is also a lack of communication between transportation networks and older individuals, rendering it difficult for individuals who do not speak English fluently. Privatized transportation resources such as Uber or Lyft often do not adhere to ADA requirements nor do they offer general accessibility for disabled people. Moreover, in many areas such as university campuses, accessibility ramps remain absent, or unusable during inclement weather. 

From a planning perspective, a major issue present is the lack of representation of disabled individuals in discussions of equity, inclusion, and general mobility. There is not enough disaggregated detailed data of populations of disabled and aging populations within the State. There are also no maps or quantitative data illustrating transportation and accessibility trends and challenges for these populations within the state. These could be in violation of ADA standards, however, the discussion highlighted the need to go beyond ADA minimum compliance. 

In order to address these challenges, there must be an increase in the representation of disabled individuals in discussions on equity, inclusion, and general mobility. In addition, the approach taken should be proactive and go beyond ADA minimum compliance. Services should be accommodation-oriented rather than compliance-oriented. A central priority should be to develop and fund a state-wide interconnected infrastructure transportation network with resources that allow for older and disabled populations to have better access to reliable forms of transportation as well as technology that translates languages for people who do not speak English fluently. 

An overarching theme in this discussion was the idea of technology as a tool to help solve these varied problems, rather than a solution in and of itself. Improving technology must go hand in hand with improving infrastructural resources. Examples of such potential synergies include translation software; apps that connect transportation routes throughout the state; maps that demonstrate the geographic dispersion of transportation resources; and the development of a centralized, interconnected communications database. While there is a strong connection between technology and transportation, it is vital to keep in mind that the aging population and people with disabilities do not always have easy access to technology, nor do all members of these populations have an understanding of how to use such services. Therefore, there is a need to understand their perceptions and familiarity with existing and evolving technologies in order to build an approach that serves all people equitably and comprehensively. A key takeaway message from this event was the recognition that the complex and inter-related challenges experienced by elderly people and people with disabilities transcend access to transportation. Their needs are embedded with broader socioeconomic and cultural spheres at the systems level and require comprehensive solutions that cross the varied domains of human rights, representation, technology, engineering, and equity. 

For additional information please contact:

davis.chacon@uconn.edu

 

Contact Us

UConn School of Engineering and the UConn Human Rights Institute. Learn more about how we are making human rights an integral component of effective engineering practice. For more information, please contact us.

Davis Chacon Hurtado, Ph.D.

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Assistant Research Professor for Civil and Environmental Engineering and Human Rights Institute

Thomas J. Dodd Research Center
405 Babbidge Road, U-1205
Storrs, CT 06269

E-mail: davis.chacon-hurtado@uconn.edu
Fax: (860) 486-6332

Shareen Hertel, Ph.D.

Professor for Political Science & Human Rights

Department of Political Science, University of Connecticut
365 Fairfield Way, Unit 1024
Storrs, CT 06269-1024

E-mail: shareen.hertel@uconn.edu
Tel: (860) 486-4129  Fax: (860) 486-3347

Michael Rubin, Ph.D.

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Assistant Research Professor for Human Rights Institute

Thomas J. Dodd Research Center
405 Babbidge Road, U-1205
Storrs, CT 06269

E-mail: michael.a.rubin@uconn.edu
Fax: (860) 486-6332