The Master of Arts in Human Rights, developed by the Institute for Human Ecology (IHE), is designed for graduate students from the United States as well as abroad, with diverse academic interests and backgrounds, who wish to study human rights from a distinctly Catholic perspective. It will draw upon existing courses of several schools. The interdisciplinary degree will be awarded by the School of Arts and Sciences through a new Center for Human Rights associated with the IHE. The program’s director is William Saunders, J.D., who has years of experience in these issues.

Graduates will:

  • Become knowledgeable about the international legal structure of human rights; 

  • Understand the Catholic anthropology of the human person; 

  • Understand the natural law of rights and the place of rights in the political 

  • Be able to analyze and discuss whether claimed “rights” are defensible as 

  • Understand the intersection of human rights concepts and Catholic Social 

  • Be prepared to contribute to the building of a culture of human rights that advances the good of the human person in community.


The innovative, interdisciplinary Master of Arts curriculum will draw upon diverse academic offerings throughout Catholic University. Its courses come not only from departments within Arts and Sciences but from the schools of Philosophy, Canon Law, Theology and Religious Studies, and Law. 

Following an introductory orientation week before the semester begins, the program consists of 30 semester hours of post-baccalaureate coursework, including a capstone course designed to bring together the insights from the other courses and which looks at the Church’s work at the United Nations and other international bodies. The capstone course will consist of a seminar, and requires completion of a research paper. The degree, which can be completed in one year, may occasionally include the option to take a summer course.

Students must maintain a minimum of a B average in order to graduate. Students will fulfill the normal requirements for a Master of Arts degree in Arts and Sciences. Electives will be chosen by students in consultation with the Director of the Program in Human Rights and the Executive Director of the IHE; they will advise students on electives that prepare them for their career goals. The list of electives is not exclusive; others might be added.

Required Core Courses

  • PHIL 633 Philosophy of Natural Right and Natural Law 

  • LAW 611 Public International Law 

  • POL 644 Modern Christian Political Thought 

  • CL 716 Religious Liberty 

  • TRS 661 Christian Anthropology 

  • Capstone course 


  • POL 5XX/405A Constitutional Democracy (bound graduate course) 

  • POL 643 Foundations of Christian Political Thought 

  • POL 307 Global Issues 

  • SOC 5XX/102 Global Social Problems & Social Justice (the bound graduate 
version of SOC 102) 

  • LAW 607A International Criminal Law 

  • LAW 419 Human Trafficking Seminar 

  • LAW 410 International Human Rights 

  • IEDM 552 Integral Economic Development Management (international 
institutions, international development, and human rights) 

  • LAW 410A International Human Rights (Rome) 

  • LAW 685 Catholic Social Teaching and the Law
  • TRS 632D Biomedical Ethics
  • TRS 632A Christian Social Ethics

  • TRS 630A Foundations of Christian Moral Life
  • PHIL 878 Philosophy of Law (Jurisprudence)

Admission Requirements

Applicants must submit:

  • Application fee 

  • A letter indicating the reasons for pursuing the degree 

  • Official transcripts of all previous undergraduate and graduate work with 
a minimum GPA of 3.0 

  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score or a Miller Analogies Test 
(MAT) score 

  • Three letters of recommendation 

  • An admissions interview with the program director, William Saunders 

International applicants must submit:

  • Application fee 

  • A letter indicating the reasons for pursuing the degree 

  • An official translation of foreign transcripts from an approved source 
(e.g., through World Education Services) 

  • Scores on the IELTS or TOEFL in accordance with university policy 

  • Three letters of recommendation in English
  • An admissions interview with the program director, William Saunders

For more information about the new master’s program in human rights, please contact William Saunders, Program Director at

For general questions regarding your application, please contact Sykeem Lewis, Graduate Admissions Coordinator for the School of Arts and Sciences at or by phone at 202-319-5253.


V. Bradley Lewis, Ph.D.
Lucia Ann Silecchia, J.D.
David Walsh, Ph.D.
Paul Scherz, Ph.D.
Chad C. Pecknold, Ph.D.
Msgr. Anthony Frontiero, S.T.D.
William L. Saunders, J.D.
Dennis Coyle, Ph.D.

Advisory Council

Robert George — Princeton University
Mary Ann Glendon — Harvard Law School
John Dilulio — University of Pennsylvania
John Keown — Georgetown University
Kevin Flannery, SJ — Gregorian University
Thomas Farr — Religious Freedom Institute
Helen Alvare — George Mason Law School

Professor Robert George addresses human rights in conversation with Program Director William Saunders during kickoff event.