By Jessie Chappell
My name is Jessie Chappell, and I’m an attorney from St. Louis, Missouri, in the United States. I’m enrolled in the College of Business and Law at University College Cork, earning my LLM in International Human Rights and Public Policy. The LLM is a one year program designed to provide a strong and practical foundation in current Human Rights Law. It’s also an excellent opportunity to research potential careers in Human Rights. I am very happy with my decision to attend UCC, and would absolutely do it again.
This program includes taught modules, conferences on contemporary human rights issues, guest lectures from top practitioners, and a research dissertation. We have examined the evolution of human rights, and the challenges in implementing universal norms throughout diverse cultures. I found the critical approach especially helpful in seeing current gaps in human rights implementation, and how effective mechanisms can impact people’s lives. The first part of the course provides an overview of the foundations of current International Human Rights instruments and implementation, followed by more focused electives to suit individual academic interests. Each lecturer is active in his or her field and brings fascinating practical experience to put topics into a broader perspective. Individual modules also allow students to meet peers in other LLM and MA programs and hear their diverse experiences. Most courses are evaluated through essays, providing helpful feedback well before starting work on the dissertation, and allowing students to approach professors one on one.
Although I have only been in this program for six months, it has already surpassed my hopes. Every module brought in active practitioners to apply our academic reading and provide an insight into different careers. More specifically, the Clinic module is unique in focusing solely on practical skills and exposure to the most topical issues in human rights law and policy. For example, in my short time at UCC, we’ve met or Skyped with the current ICC Chief Prosecutor, the current Chief Justice of Ireland, the Head of the Secretariat at the Council of Europe: Group of Experts on Action Against Trafficking, judges from multiple international criminal tribunals, the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, and multiple practitioners from organizations such as Human Rights Watch and the Irish Human Rights Commission. Each one of these lectures individually would justify moving to Ireland for the year, so hearing from them and many others has motivated me in a way academic research never had.
These speakers, and the readings assigned beforehand, have helped me make the most of each class meeting and develop efficient research skills. I have also gained invaluable firsthand insight into diverse working conditions and topics where more attention is needed. I have already gained a broader perspective in law than I expected, and each professor has given me the skills and foundation necessary to succeed professionally in the academic, public, or private sectors.