Kean prepares for its 8th Annual Human Rights Conference


Catherine Albisa will be speaking from a social and economic perspective in the U.S.

By Annalise Knudson

With the controversy surrounding the right to medical care within the U.S. Congress, Kean University’s upcoming Human Rights Conference will focus on how healthcare is a universal human right.

The 8th Annual Human Rights Conference will be held on Mar. 13 at Wilkins Theatre. Hosted by Kean’s Human Rights Institute (HRI), the conference is free, open to the public, and lunch is provided. On-site registration for the conference begins at 8 a.m. and starts at 9 a.m.

Organizers said it would focus on healthcare as a basic human right from a United States perspective and a global perspective. There will be two speakers who will be demonstrating and speaking about human rights issues.

“Students will have the opportunity to hear first-hand from two of the leading thinkers of today on the issue of health care as a human right,” Turchi said.

Catherine Albisa, the co-founder and Executive Director of the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI), will be speaking through a social and economic perspective, including health, education, and housing, particularly in the United States. Albisa is a constitutional and human rights lawyer and is a graduate from Columbia Law School.

Pulitzer Prize winner Laurie Garrett will also be speaking at the conference from more of a global perspective and about the Ebola outbreak in Africa. She wrote two bestselling books and won the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism. She currently serves as the Senior Fellow for Global Health for the Council of Foreign Affairs in New York.

“The conference will challenge us to look within ourselves, our own communities, and the world around us to find and implement solutions to health crisis and lack of access to care,” said Turchi. “Students will come away with information and an understanding of how our human right to health care is impacted by the decisions we make as individuals, as a collective society, and by our elected officials.”

The first conference was held in 2008 and in May 2010, the Human Rights Institute officially opened its doors to the Kean community. The HRI was created to help promote awareness of human rights issues in the community and worldwide and to help create initiatives to problems to battle human rights abuses.

“Together as a Kean community and overall community we will come together during this conference to identify discuss and address this timely topic that impacts each of us individually and collectively,” Turchi said.

After walking through a gallery of artwork and traveling up to the second floor of the Nancy Thompson Library to the HRI, students will find quiet offices, art and artifacts on display behind glass cases. Student volunteers and the new director of the institute welcome those who enter with their lively and energetic approach.

The director of the institute, Elizabeth Turchi, was appointed at the beginning of February after living in The Hague, The Netherlands for three years working as an International Human Rights Attorney. Her experience with working within the United Nations is sure to educate and promote the HRI. She worked as the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and for the United Nations as the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Her friendliness to the students could convince anyone that she had been working as the director for years. Her volunteers are Lina Caswell, a graduate student who is bilingual in English and Spanish, and Cyril Yemofio, a junior soccer player who is bilingual in French and English.
They each have their own interests in human rights and hope to become better engaged with the United Nations and to focus on immigrant population as an issue. Turchi emphasized the hard work and dedication that her volunteers put into the HRI and their interest in becoming human rights activists.
“My two volunteers have a lot of energy and really want to volunteer,” she enthused. “They have a lot of great ideas. We are hoping for a new art gallery and exhibits that focus on Latin and South America.”
Students can get more involved by joining the HRI’s Book Club hosted by author and Anne Evans Estabrook Human Rights Senior Fellow John Prendergast which meets on the last Tuesday of every month. Students can also visit the HRI Gallery located on the first floor of the library.
To register and find more information about the HRI, students can visit their website,


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