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Creating Opportunities in the Future of Engineering and Human Rights

Entry Author:
Gabriel Velez, Ph.D.
Marquette University



This workshop built on the University of Dayton’s (UD) Human Rights Center & Studies Program, and ETHOS (Engineers in Technical Humanitarian Opportunities of Service Learning) Center “Engineering and Human Rights” partnership. The goals were to create an engineering minor, invest in engineering and human rights research, and advance vocational pathways for engineers, including by contributing their skills, techniques and expertise to human rights, peace, sustainable development, and humanitarian organizations. The workshop engaged participants in relevant topics, methods, concerns, and organizations that enhance collaborations between engineering and human rights in both academic and practitioner realms.





  • This intersection of engineering, human rights, and service learning is situated at UD within a deep commitment of the university to diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice, and the clear connections contribute to the practical manifestation of these overall efforts and learning objectives of the university.
  • The engineering students in this program are guided in contextualizing what they are doing and decisions they are making in order to think through broader social or economic or political impact.
  • The UD human rights minor focuses on practically training and enabling students to apply human rights in the real world, using an advocacy and practice approach.
  • The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a good framework for thinking about the bridge from the international human rights agenda and various scientific fields like engineering.



  1. Undergraduate study programs allow for flexibility for students to acquire skills, knowledge, and tools, and practice opportunities at a critical point in their formation, enabling them to enter spaces and issues related to human rights in the future.
  2. One strategy for creating more opportunities for students to engage in these types of experiences and programs is to leverage assets or frameworks that are salient in the institutions, such as mission, values, guiding principles, and commitments, whether these be religiously, civically, or otherwise oriented.
  3. The SDGs are a framework that can help guide the development of programs and courses connecting the sciences, human rights, and social justice.
  4. These human rights frameworks can also make scientists more valuable to civil society organizations who want employees who can critically evaluate the impact of what they are doing on individual and community rights; can engage communities in collaborative design in a manner that reinforces rather than undermines human rights; understand discrimination and historic inequities and how they work; and are able to develop technical solutions that respond to and reinforce accountability, transparency, and the rule of law.


Key Words

  1. University Programs
  2. Engineering
  3. UN Sustainable Development Goals
  4. Service Learning