Carrie Walling, political science professor, incoming director for the Ford Institute and current director for the Prentiss M. Brown Honors Program, has been helping students coordinate the new advocacy and job opportunity on campus. The project is called the Human Rights Lab.
“It is created out of collaborative work that I have been doing with students over the last couple of years. The idea for the lab was to formalize and systematize the research that I’ve been doing with students,” said Walling. “[I wanted] to create an institutional structure for it and be able to create a collaborative team of students so that more students can be involved in the research.”
The goal of the Human Rights Lab is to take the best practices on human rights and apply them in practice on Albion College’s campus and the Albion Community.
“[The goal is to] provide training and resources to other students who have their own issues of concern so they can pursue justice and increase access to rights in the ways that are important to them,” said Walling.
The Human Rights Lab was created to give students tools to uplift their own voices and empower them to take action. In the Human Rights Lab, students are creating the infrastructure, which makes it even more tailored to student oriented needs.
“We are developing a human rights advocacy website. A couple of years ago I started doing research with three Albion undergraduate students and we created an advocacy tool kit and it’s going to be published in February,” said Walling. “We want to provide them with case students, with fact sheets, with tools. We are taking our research on best practices and creative ideas that we know work and making them available for basically anyone to use.”
The website will also be open to student activists who would like to submit case studies of their own advocacy actions they have taken that have been successful. Along with the website, the Human Rights Lab will be hosting advocacy workshops that can be taken for professional development credit for the School of Public Purpose and their learning certificates.
“Niyati Kellenberg Callewaert [Ann Arbor senior] is continuing on a project we started last spring in a human rights class and we partnered with the Albion branch of the NAACP, and she’s looking at police training and police standards in Albion and comparing that to best practices for policing and democracies that are laid out by the United Nations,” said Walling.
The Human Rights Lab is shining a light on the United States’ human rights scene as well. The students and faculty involved believe it’s important to protect human rights at home in order to push for human rights adjustment abroad.
“We haven’t started yet, but we are looking at looking at U.S. domestic human rights practices and how they relate to our human rights foreign policy,” said Walling. “We talk a lot about human rights in the United States, but we are often talking about what’s happening in other countries.”
The Human Rights Lab is accessible for all majors and minors. According to Walling, it’s a space that’s about working toward building a more equitable world.
“Last spring, my human rights course did a community partnership with the Albion branch NAACP, and we were working with them to study how COVID-19 has exacerbated pre-existing inequalities in health and in education. We also looked at systemic racism and policing,” said Walling. “Basically the idea of the lab has been accumulating for a long time. Now we get to formalize it and make it seen.”
The main goal of the Human Rights Lab is to encourage and create more justice in the world.
“I think it’s important for everybody to know their rights and to have access to their rights. I think empowering people to recognize that they have political and social power and how to use it is important for our students and the members of our community,” said Walling
Caitlin Cummings, Gurnee, Ill. senior, is one of the original students on the Human Rights Lab project.
“My experience with the Human Rights Lab began with working on Dr. Walling’s most recent book with a team of two other Albion students who have since graduated. We created a toolkit for helping people become more confident with advocacy and give them the skills for responding to bias incidents,” said Cummings.
Cummings is also busy at work with her own research.
“My other project is my thesis, which is on creating a DEIB curriculum for the tour guide program in the admissions office to provide comprehensive training to tour guides. This is essential for working towards Albion’s goal of becoming an anti-racist institution, as well as creating a sense of belonging within the tour guides,” said Cummings.
Cummings wants students to know that working at the Human Rights Lab is worth the work put into it.
“My favorite part of working in the lab is collaborating with other students and I would encourage anyone who is passionate about human rights, social justice or inclusion issues to apply. You can be paid to work on projects and it’s an amazing opportunity to get more experience in the field,” said Cummings.