A section for events that have transpired or are upcoming for the Engineering for Human Rights Initiative.

Am I an Engineer? Identity, Belonging, and Motivation in Engineering Education

 “Am I an Engineer? Identity, Belonging, and Motivation in Engineering Education” by Allison Godwin (Cornell University). Organized as part of the G. Michael Howard Engineering Education Lecture Series. September 7, 2023, at 9:30 a.m. at Biology Physics Building (BPB) room 131.

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The Electric Vehicle Revolution – From a Human Rights Angle


Photo by Andrew Roberts on Unsplash

Electric vehicles (EVs) have evolved rapidly owing to technological advancements and a growing interest in renewable energy to eliminate transportation’s dependency on fossil fuels and mitigate the effects of climate change. While EVs could revolutionize the transportation industry, they could jeopardize social equity and environmental stewardship efforts. Current studies on transportation electrification often fail to evaluate the EV revolution implications in human rights terms. International human rights law provides universally accepted norms, standards, baseline indicators, and modes of inquiry and reporting that could significantly advance and sharpen impact analysis. In this study, we explored the potential human rights implications that EVs pose for individuals and societies throughout their life cycle. Using the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights-based treaties as our baseline, we analyzed the existing and likely EVs’ impacts on human rights. We identified potential measures to address human rights violations. Stakeholders (governments, private sectors, civil society) need to work closely together to make the transition to low-carbon transportation more equitable and sustainable.

Francesco Rouhana (Ph.D. student, UConn Civil & Environmental Engineering) with Advisor, Professor Jin Zhu (UConn Civil & Environmental Engineering), presented on this framework. This event was sponsored by Engineering for Human Rights Initiative and the Economic & Social Rights Group

Community Dialogue on Solar Energy & Electro-Mobility in CT

Clean energy has become one of the key strategies to mitigate and reduce the effects of climate change, reduce oil dependency, improve the quality of our environment, and reduce household expenses on energy. However, the benefits from energy production and distribution have not been equally experienced by all communities. And the negative social and environmental consequences have not been equally shouldered. The clean energy transition may be an opportunity to redress some of those inequalities.

This event was aimed at fostering dialogue among community representatives, researchers, and policymakers interested in the equity implications of solar energy and electric mobility. We explored the sustainability and human rights challenges and opportunities that the clean energy revolution might bring to these sectors.

Summary of the event 

The Engineering for Human Rights Initiative hosted a hybrid “Community Dialogue on Solar Energy & Electro-Mobility” on February 1, 2023, at the UConn Storrs campus (Connecticut). The event was attended by community members, energy advocates, students and interested faculty from across the state. The discussion centered  on the economics of energy justice amidst the transition to clean energy, including education and extension, accessibility, and equity dimensions. This event was a step toward building university-community partnerships for research and partnership in renewable energy, affordable transportation, and equitable access to emerging technologies for Connecticut residents. 

Key Takeaways (click for shareable PDF version)

  1. Education and extension – How can UConn support communities on clean energy technologies and assist them in accessing capacity-building/implementation grants or other support for these technologies
  2. Mapping key stakeholders that make the change and transition to clean energy fair for everyone. These include, but are not limited to, policymakers, energy generators and providers, local officials, worship places, and community representatives, among others. It is also important to identify locations for community connections that are “trusted” and easy to access (for example, a local barber shops). What factors help build influence community trust?
  3. Analyze the intersectionality of different factors such as housing (multi-family housing, renters, etc.) and infrastructure & services (e.g., transportation) and how they are linked to environmental justice in Connecticut. Does addressing energy justice need to address environmental justice issues first? What is the interdependence between the two? How does infrastructure and technology  play a role in linking both of them?
  4. Explore the “economics of energy justice” as the economic impact of fair access to clean energy needs to be measured, as well as the role of incentives that could facilitate that transition. The disadvantages of communities without adequate access to energy are denied the opportunity for economic development, and that missed opportunity could also be quantified. What are the incentives for owners and renters that could promote the transition to clean energy?

Discussion Summary

Dr. Lyle Scruggs (University of Connecticut, Dept. of Political Science) presented on the rollout of rooftop solar panels ongoing throughout Connecticut. Scruggs highlighted the size and location of projects, noting that there are many underserved communities which may not have the resources to adopt solar panel technology. Scruggs focused, in particular, on the electoral implications of renewable energy adoption at the local, state, and national levels (i.e., analyzing the connection between adoption and those who hold positions in office). Together with others involved in the dialogue event, Scruggs explored factors affecting access to renewable energy (including shared housing) as well as the lack of access for the public to information on financial incentives and policies; discussion also focused on whose responsibility it is to help reach these communities. Participants discussed a potential role for UConn in providing public information/outreach on energy incentives; whether it be the role of higher education institutions or the company’s responsibility, there was a consensus that there needs to be work done in this area to connect individuals with sound data on renewable energy programs. Depending upon the community, the message that adopting solar panels and more sustainable energy options is possible should come from a leader who the community trusts (including religious leaders, library staff, public educators or community officials). 

Transportation incentives across the state were also discussed. One attendee noted the positive impact of a free bus program in New Haven that has helped the city address transportation needs. Another participant noted a program in Hartford that enables residents to use electric bicycles or scooters; rideshare programs also provide individuals with options for commuting. Planners should consider safe storage for electric scooters, especially for renters. The disproportionate impact of vehicle emissions by commuters in urban areas was discussed, along with the need to encourage public transportation use more broadly in light of environmental and health impacts. In this connection, the transportation goal should not necessarily be to electrify first but rather, to reduce vehicle miles traveled by the individuals through greater use of public transportation. Using public transportation rather than driving a single occupancy car was framed as a service to others and the environment.  For a synthesis, see the handout above, “Key Takeaways.”

Climate Change Research & Policy Updates in CT Strategies for Promoting Equity & Inclusion (October 14, 2021)

A key challenge in addressing the intensifying effects of climate change on our communities is to ensure equity in the costs and benefits of mitigation and adaptation strategies, and public participation in policy decisions, so that vulnerable communities in Connecticut are protected and maintain a stake in efforts to address climate change.

Summary of the event 

Addressing the intensifying effects of climate change on our communities requires massive investment in mitigation and adaptation strategies that will alter and disrupt how communities generate and use energy and how we access and consume essential resources. Given the severity of the climate change crisis and the scale of intervention required, the design and implementation of mitigation and adaptation solutions carry critical implications for equity–in the distribution of costs and benefits as well as in access to opportunities to influence public policy decisions–across members of society. 

Attention to the potential for policy and programs to reduce or exacerbate inequity in social, economic, or political spheres is an essential yet, all too often overlooked, component to a robust and sustainable approach to addressing the challenges associated with climate change. A key challenge is to ensure that vulnerable communities in Connecticut are protected and maintain a stake in efforts to address climate change.

In this webinar, leading UConn researchers and environmental professionals discussed lessons learned from their research and policy engagements focused on climate change mitigation and adaptation, with emphasis on the challenges associated with these issues of ensuring equity. Panelists discussed the policymaking processes and outcomes to date related to the Governor’s Council on Climate Change (GC3) and the Long Island Sound Study (LISS): Connecticut’s flagship programs working towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions while protecting infrastructure, agriculture, natural resources, and public health systems from the effects of climate change.

The panelists identified core challenges facing efforts to ensure equity in the policymaking process and its consequences. Multiple panelists highlighted the under-representation, or absence, of marginalized communities in consultation and planning processes in which policymakers and program designers identify the most important climate change-related issues needing attention and debate alternative approaches to addressing them. Improving the representation of marginalized communities at this stage of the process will ensure that the allocation of scarce funding will be directed toward severe challenges facing a greater share of Connecticut’s residents. It will also allow for the implementation of measures to avoid marginalized communities shouldering a disproportionate share of the costs and disruptions associated with structural changes. 

Furthermore, because efforts to expand access to essential services, such as clean water or adequate housing, are resource-intensive, in many cases, programs to increase equity and social justice on socio-economic dimensions are in direct competition with efforts to mitigate climate change. Separating these two spheres of social policy may inadvertently introduce barriers to achieving core objectives in either or both domains. The panelists highlighted that rather than science and engineering representing the primary constraint on addressing climate change while ensuring equity; the main challenges are political.  


Denise M. Savageau (UConn Alumna, CAHNR; former Conservation Director,
Town of Greenwich)

James O’Donnell (Executive Director, Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation/CIRCA; Professor of Marine Sciences, UConn Avery Point)

Christine Kirchhoff (Associate Professor, Civil & Environmental Engineering, UConn Storrs)

Baikun Li (Professor, Civil & Environmental Engineering, UConn Storrs)

Anji Seth (Professor of Geography, UConn Storrs)

This event is sponsored by the Engineering for Human Rights Initiative at the University of Connecticut, in partnership with the Governor’s Council on Climate Change and the Long Island Sound Study.

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

Summary of the Event:

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


Seminar – Social Cohesion and Community Displacement in Armed Conflict: Evidence from Palestinian Villages in the 1948 War.

Social Cohesion and Community Displacement in Armed Conflict: Evidence from Palestinian Villages in the 1948 War on  Tuesday, February 02 from 12:30 to 1:45 p.m.  

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

12:30-1:45 p.m. EST
Virtual Event
Please join us for a lunchtime seminar with Michael Rubin entitled: “Social Cohesion and Community Displacement in Armed Conflict: Evidence from Palestinian Villages in the 1948 War.”

During armed conflict, why do some communities evacuate their village to evade civilian-targeted violence, while others remain despite the risks? We argue that community social cohesion, by facilitating collective action, enhances communities’ ability to mobilize preemptive evacuation to escape exposure to conflict violence. The argument is tested in the context of the 1948 War in Mandate Palestine (Israel’s independence/Palestinian al-Nakba) drawing upon detailed historical accounts of displacement in each Arab Palestinian village in which it occurred (Khalidi and Elmusa 1992; Morris 1987) and new original data coded from archival material that records pre-war social, political, and economic conditions in Arab Palestinian villages. Click Here to Access the Full Paper.

Dr. Michael Rubin is an Asst. Research Professor in the Human Rights Institute, University of Connecticut, jointly appointed with the Schools of Engineering and Business in support of the university’s Engineering for Human Rights Initiative and Business and Human Rights Initiative. His research investigates armed conflict processes and political violence, informing policy solutions to reduce the human suffering they generate. For more information, please visit Michael’s personal website:

Click Here to Register

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

This event is sponsored by the Human Rights Institute.

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