As HRI’s highest honor for people or groups committed to helping victims of human rights abuses, the awards were given during a “Thanksgiving dinner” at HRI’s headquarters near downtown Dallas.
HRI provides legal services to people who have suffered human rights abuses. Their clients range from people seeking asylum in the U.S. to victims of human trafficking.
The Dedman School of Law “has a long and rich history” of helping HRI since the service organization’s start in 1999, Rebecca Garza Greenan, director of the law school’s Public Service Program, said.
Since 1992, after a law faculty-sponsored resolution, SMU’s law students have been required to complete a minimum of 30 hours of uncompensated and not-for-credit public service. Since 1997, SMU Dedman School of Law students have assisted HRI attorneys in their representation of clients through public service as well as paid summer internships and academic externships, currently overseen by law professor Jeffrey Kahn.
“SMU law students have had the opportunity to assist HRI attorneys in representing clients from around the world, allowing them to learn the importance of, and the fulfillment from, championing human rights one client at a time,” Greenan said.
“The students are enriched and the community is helped.”
Since the Embrey Human Rights Program was established in 2006 in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities & Sciences, more than 80 students have graduated with human rights minors.
In spring 2012 the program will offer an undergraduate degree, making SMU only the fifth university in the country and the first west of the Mississippi to offer such a degree.
The program requires that each undergraduate and graduate human rights student spend a minimum of 20 hours working for HRI of North Texas or other community-service agencies to complete required courses. Students do volunteer tasks such as helping transport clients around Dallas and working as translators.
“We are proud to both support the work of HRI and to provide students to support the work and mission of HRI,” Embrey Human Rights Program Director Rick Halperin said.
“It is imperative that our students get involved in human rights work here in Dallas because human rights work truly begins at home.”
Individuals to be honored with awards this year are Mary Ellen Bluntzer, an internal medicine physician who goes on medical missions to Tanzania twice a year to work with medical students at local hospitals, and Carol Jablonski, a volunteer attorney for HRI’s Women and Children’s Program who also helps clients at HRI’s office two days a week.
For details about the HRI of North Texas, visit hrionline.org or call 214-855-0520. Additional information about the Dedman School of Law Public Service Program can be found at law.smu.edu/public-service or by calling 214-768-2567.
For details about the Embrey Human Rights Program, visit smu.edu/humanrights/ or call 214-768-8347.