The Social Justice and Human Rights concentration in the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies program is designed to cultivate in students a deep theoretical understanding of the social, political, cultural, historical, and economic implications of a wide array of social injustices and human rights issues while also engaging students in the applied process of imagining and actualizing holistic and complex strategies for creating and sustaining a more equitable, just, and humane world. Required courses in the concentration draw on interdisciplinary, global, and integrative sources of knowledge and experience derived from movements for social justice (such as racial justice and feminist movements), environmental justice, animal rights, and human rights. Students consider the ways in which these issues and movements intersect while critically examining the processes and institutions established to promote and protect individual and group rights.
The concentration was constructed by an interdisciplinary team of faculty based on a vision that combines the most contemporary theoretical and philosophical frameworks, such as intersectionality and meta-intersectionality theory, queer theory, and critical race theory, with the knowledge and strategies of past and present change-makers. Because the program is based at George Mason University, just outside Washington, DC, students have opportunities to meet and engage with on-the-ground social justice and human rights activists and advocates who are putting contemporary understandings of social change into action on the biggest social justice issues of the day.
In addition to taking a small number of core courses, students have the opportunity to shape their program around their social justice and human rights interests. They do so by working with a faculty advisor to develop a focus area "track" which they complete by choosing from a broad campus-wide catalog of courses. These tracks can be based on a specific social justice or human rights issue, such as racial justice, educational rights, (dis)ability rights, indigenous rights, animal rights, or the abolition of human trafficking, or a regional context such as the Middle East, Central Europe, East Africa, Central America, or Southeast Asia.
Electives are chosen from a wide variety of programs including Education, Government, Conflict Analysis and Resolution, Sociology, Public Policy, College Teaching, and Women and Gender Studies.
Upon completing required coursework, students may choose to complete either an applied project or a thesis on a topic of their interest.