Joyce Apsel is a historian and attorney. She is also the founder and director of the non-profit Rights Works International, a former president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars, the current President of the Institute for the Study of Genocide, and a faculty member of the Genocide and Human Rights University Program (“GHRUP”) for the past nine years. Her 2010 article, “Darfur: Historic Processes and Regional Dynamics,” received the Outstanding Article Award from the Peace, War and Conflict section of the American Sociological Association.
Prof. Apsel draws on her experience as a Master Teacher in the Liberal Studies Program at New York University, where she received the 2008-2009 NYU Distinguished Teaching Award, to analyse the unique design of the GHRUP, a course conceptualized and organized by the International Institute for Genocide & Human Rights Studies (“IIGHRS”) (A Division of the Zoryan Institute), as a model for educating a new generation of scholars in genocide and human rights studies. She supplemented her personal experience with the program by conducting a formal, written survey of all students who have attended the program.
As the GHRUP prepares to launch its tenth year under the directorship of eminent professor Roger W. Smith, Prof. Apsel comments, “Ten years is a long time and quite an accomplishment for the Zoryan Institute…It actually is quite remarkable to see the development and the added layers and richness of the course as it has evolved over the past decade.”
Commenting on the significance of the article, Prof. Herbert Hirsch, Professor of Political Science at Virginia Commonwealth University, a renowned specialist on genocide prevention, an editor of Genocide Studies & Prevention, and one of the distinguished faculty members of the GHRUP stated, “It is so rewarding to see that the GHRUP continues to gain recognition as it develops a critical network of students and scholars worldwide who are informed, aware, and active when it comes to genocide research, publication, education, and prevention. This growing network fostered by the GHRUP creates a ripple effect of mobilized disciples, worldwide, all working towards a common goal—genocide prevention.”
A distinctive feature of the GHRUP which enhances the profile and quality of the course is that each summer some ten scholars and specialists from different disciplines and areas of concentration are invited from around the world to Canada to teach and share their research with students, scholars and activists in a seminar setting.
Now in its tenth year, with over 250 graduates from at least 20 different countries, the GHRUP strives to achieve multiple goals: to encourage the development of a new generation of young scholars to take up the study of genocide professionally at an advanced level; to illuminate the causes of genocide, the way it takes place, and its devastating impact; to bring a measure of healing and relief to various communities through the sharing of great trauma of many peoples; to study and teach in an interdisciplinary manner; and to use this comparative approach to identify the characteristics of genocide so that it becomes predictable and in turn hopefully preventable.
Yair Auron, noted genocide scholar and Professor in the Department of Sociology, Political Science and Communication at the Open University of Israel, remarked, “As an educator, a genocide scholar, a Zoryan board member, and someone who has taught at the GHRUP, I am very pleased to see this program touch the lives of so many young people and help set them on a path on which they may contribute to helping prevent genocide. This is the responsibility of all of us as human beings, and my colleagues at the Zoryan Institute are to be congratulated for their contribution to this important mission.”
As Prof. Apsel states, the GHRUP is a training ground for a new generation of students and scholars about the comparative study of the Armenian and other genocides, and a range of human rights issues. She notes, however, that even after a decade of running the program, the challenges are ongoing, from funding, to organization, to how the GHRUP will continue innovative and critical educational approaches. The program is expensive to run, and tuition covers only a fraction of the actual cost. Hence, finding resources, such as an endowment, sponsorships, donations and other funding to continue the program is critical, especially if the course is to keep improving.
The Zoryan Institute is the parent organization of the International Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, which runs an annual, accredited university program on the subject and is co-publisher of Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal in partnership with the International Association of Genocide Scholars and the University of Toronto Press. It is the first non-profit, international center devoted to the research and documentation of contemporary issues with a focus on Genocide, Diaspora and Armenia.