Kathryn Libal Reappointed as HRI Director
July 7, 2020
By Zahra Ali, Director of Global Partnerships and Outreach
Vice President of Global Affairs Daniel Weiner announced the reappointment of Associate Professor of Social Work and Human Rights Kathryn Libal to a second five year term as Director of the Human Rights Institute (HRI) effective July 1, 2020.
"In the five years since taking over the directorship, Kathy has expanded HRI's academic, research, and teaching portfolio while also building strong relationships with faculty, staff, students and donors," notes Weiner, "She is well known in human rights circles and provides national leadership on working with persecuted scholars, human rights practitioners, and refugees."
During Libal's tenure as director, HRI has increased the number of funded internships for undergraduate majors and minors with support from Open Society Foundations and other donors. The Institute also began collaborating with the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center and Community Outreach on the Human Rights and Action Learning Community and conducted a comprehensive review of the undergraduate and graduate curriculum to reflect a broader range of human rights topics and approaches.
Under Libal's leadership, HRI also established a new research and engagement focus on Human Rights Practice, which led to joint collaboration and initiatives with the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, and the Schools of Business, Engineering, and Law. Libal's collaborative nature has led to many successful conferences and workshops that result in concrete projects. This is illustrated by the 2019 conference HRI held in honor of the late Wiktor Osiatynski - renowned Human Rights activist and friend to HRI - titled "Human Rights and the Politics of Solidarity." The conference led to the commission of a documentary on Osiatysnki's life and a series of practice-based essays in OpenGlobalRights, co-edited with Professor of Law Molly Land and UConn Law student Jillian Chambers.
Libal has worked closely with Weiner and the UConn Foundation to raise upwards of $6 million to contribute to HRI and human rights programming at the University - a substantial portion of which has been from the Open Society Foundations and the Gladstein family.
In the past five years Libal has engaged in scholarship related to the human rights of asylum seekers and refugees, co-authoring or co-editing several books and numerous articles and book chapters. She serves as lead researcher on a team-based project examining community sponsorship of refugees and asylum-seekers in the United States. She also serves on the inaugural steering committee for Scholars at Risk USA chapter and the Human Rights Committee of the Global Commission, Council on Social Work Education.
When asked what she envisions for HRI's future, Libal wants to "cement HRI's role as an innovative leader in the field of interdisciplinary human rights studies and deepen its impact by building greater visibility of key research and practice initiatives by faculty, students and alumni."
"We could not ask for a more committed, competent and collaborative director. Kathy's leadership has been transformative," remarks Weiner; a sentiment that is echoed by all that know her.