A Brief History

In 1997 College of Arts & Sciences Dean Brian Foster created a new interdisciplinary area of excellence, Human Rights and Human Diversity.  David Forsythe was the Founding Director, working closely with Dean Foster in setting up the program. That same year Foster, Forsythe, and Dane Kennedy of the History Department competed successfully for a Ford Foundation seed grant to support the new program. The grant was extended with additional funds through 2002.

Other Directors of UNL's human rights program over its two decade history are Robert Hitchcock from Anthropology, Brian Lepard from the College of Law, Jay Johnson from Geography, and Jeff Spinner-Halev and Ari Kohen from Political Science. The program has an Advisory Board made up of faculty from participating units such as Law, History, Philosophy, English, Political Science, Anthropology, and Geography.  It has had a close working relationship with still other units such as Education, Journalism, Judaic Studies, and Women's Studies.  Faculty in the human rights program have collaborated and continue to work together on research and teaching projects around topics such as transitional justice in post-conflict societies, human security and water security, and Holocaust and genocide studies.

The program was renamed in 2010 to honor the career of David Forsythe and in recognition of the generous financial contribution made by the Forsythe family to the University of Nebraska. Forsythe's goal, for UNL to be counted among the leading universities in the study of human rights and humanitarian affairs, informs the teaching and research goals of the program today, just as his scholarship and teaching on international human rights and humanitarian law led to its creation and serve as the model for the way the program promotes these related topics.

About David Forsythe and the Forsythe Family

David P. Forsythe is University Professor and Charles J. Mach Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Emeritus, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USA. Educated at Wake Forest (BA) and Princeton (MA, PHD) Universities, he joined the faculty at UNL in 1973 where he served as Department Chair between 1993 and 1998.

His numerous publications on different aspects of International Relations include: The Humanitarians: The International Committee of the Red Cross, (Cambridge University Press, 2005); Human Rights in International Relations, (Cambridge University Press, 4th ed. forthcoming); The United Nations and Changing World Politics, (Westview Press, 8th ed. forthcoming; with 3 other authors); American Foreign Policy in a Globalized World, (Routledge, 2006; edited with two others); The Politics of Prisoner Abuse: US Policy toward Enemy Prisoners after 9/11 (Cambridge University Press, 2011); and The ICRC: A Neutral Humanitarian Actor, (Routledge, 2nd ed., 2016, with a co-author). He was the General Editor of The Encyclopedia of Human Rights (Oxford University Press, 2009, 5 volumes, winner of the Dartmouth Medal for the best reference publication in that year given by the American Library Association).

In the fall of 2003 the Mid-West Section of the International Studies Association presented him with the Quincy Wright Distinguished Scholar Award in honor of his lifetime professional achievements. The Human Rights Section of the American Political Science Associated named him a Distinguished Scholar in 2007. In 2013 he received a similar award from the Human Rights Section of the International Studies Association. In 2012 he was given the career achievement award by the Academic Senate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.