Students in the coming year’s Human Rights Study Project will venture to Nepal in January to conduct field research on human rights issues and produce original scholarship based on their work.

The University of Virginia School of Law project, now on its 17th annual journey, has sponsored trips to Colombia, Myanmar and Zambia in recent years. Participating students, called Cowan Fellows, receive course credit for their work while learning about and sometimes proposing solutions to systemic issues facing a country or region. The Nepal trip will be all-expenses-paid for students.

“Nepal is a perfect place for advancing human rights research in a culturally diverse, but somehow-harmonic environment,” said Professor Nelson Camilo Sanchez Leon, director of the International Human Rights Clinic, who will travel with the group. “We are trying to organize a visit with the king of Nepal, the prime minister and a Maoist opposition leader.”

A 10-year civil conflict in the country ending in 2006 resulted in thousands of deaths, and human rights and humanitarian law violations, he said, and a devastating earthquake in 2015 further exacerbated economic and development challenges.

During the first part of the course, students will prepare for and facilitate a diverse array of meetings that dive into culture, politics, nongovernmental organization work, investigative journalism and similar topics.

“The balance of the trip will be in the Khumbu region near Mount Everest, one of the most beautiful places in the world,” Sanchez said. “Understanding its culture is important to understanding the country’s beauty and its shortcomings. Furthermore, better understanding Nepal’s culture is key to understanding development opportunities and challenges.” 

The Nepal trip is being funded in part with a donation by Kelly and David C. Burke ’93, chief executive officer of Makena Capital Management, who will also travel with the group.

The course is now accepting applications, which are due to Sanchez by Aug. 3. Applicants must send a letter of interest and a résumé. Candidates must explain why they are interested in the course, or in the region selected. Students considering taking the course should also review the Law School’s Study Abroad Guidelines.

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