Syrian conflict and human rights to be explored at seminar

Keeler and Laboy
From left: Law student Lindsay Keeler and political science major Emmanuel Laboy
March 14, 2014 - Two Quinnipiac University students and a professor will travel to Oxford University in England March 23-28 to attend a special seminar on the Syrian conflict.

The seminar, "Human Rights and Violent Conflict," will bring together 30 students from five American universities along with a select group of scholars and practitioners to engage in a meaningful dialogue on the Syrian conflict. This is the second year the seminar has been held and the first time Quinnipiac students will have the opportunity to attend. 

Sujata Gadkar-Wilcox, assistant professor of legal studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, will accompany the students, Lindsay Keeler of Sterling, Va., a third-year law student at the School of Law, and Emmanuel Laboy, of Fanwood, N.J., a junior political science major. 

"This is a tremendous opportunity for them," said Gadkar-Wilcox. 

About 15 Quinnipiac students applied for the Global Engagement Fellowship, which will cover the students' expenses for the trip. Keeler and Laboy were selected for their commitment to human rights and engagement with the seminar topic. 

Laboy says his strong interest in international relations and family background led him to apply for the program. A first-generation American with parents from Peru and Puerto Rico, Laboy has his sights set on graduate school and then a career in the Foreign Service after Quinnipiac. He hopes the Oxford seminar will broaden his understanding of issues related to war: why it happens and how society can address problems that contribute to it. 

"It's such a huge opportunity. I'm so excited to learn so much," Laboy said. "It's inspirational to learn from people who've been on the ground." 

The interdisciplinary seminar will bring together law, graduate and undergraduate students, who will each bring a unique perspective from their major or discipline. Students will be divided into small groups to discuss and create a presentation on a sub-topic about the Syrian conflict. 

Students will also hear presentations by Oxford professors and Oxfam workers on a range of topics, including international law and armed conflict; justifications of violence; the life of humanitarian workers; making peace agreements; and protecting civilians. 

Keeler says the seminar topic fits in with her interest in immigration law and refugees. She hopes it will help expand her knowledge of international law and humanitarian assistance. "It's an exciting opportunity," she said. 

At Quinnipiac, Keeler is a member of the School of Law's International Human Rights Law Society and serves as a fellow in the school's Civil Justice Clinic, which offers free legal services to the underserved. 

The Quinnipiac students will present their findings to the University community after returning from the trip. 

Gadkar-Wilcox says the University hopes to send more Quinnipiac students to the seminar next year. The University will also host a related seminar in the fall.