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Marylin Shuler Human Rights Initiative

From Interim Dean Andrew Giacomazzi

The Marilyn Shuler Human Rights Initiative

I’m sure many of our readers have fond memories of Marilyn Shuler. Shuler, who earned her master of public administration degree from Boise State in 1978, was known for her tireless work on behalf of human rights, work that extended even beyond her role as director of the Idaho Human Rights Commission. She also made valuable contributions to the College of Social Sciences & Public Affairs Advisory Board here at Boise State.

In addition to hosting education and collaborative opportunities for the larger community, our Marilyn Shuler Human Rights Initiative offers an academic certificate program in human rights education and advocacy that will complement any academic major. This approach gives students the skills they need to integrate human rights into whatever career they choose to pursue.

In this edition of Public Interest, we’ll visit with Lisa Meierotto, director of the Shuler Initiative. We’ll also share an exciting course that helps students design and lead human rights campaigns, teaching them the bridge-building and advocacy skills to be successful. And we’ll meet an outstanding student with a story that might surprise you.

We are honored and humbled that Shuler chose the School of Public Service to host the human rights initiative that bears her name. We will endeavor to do our best to honor her memory by teaching students the skills they need to carry on her legacy of human rights education and advocacy. Working, as always, in the public interest.

Thanks for reading,

Andrew Giacomazzi
Interim Dean, School of Public Service
Boise State University

With Shuler Human Rights Initiative Director Lisa Meierotto

Academics Talking Academics in Elevators

In another exciting episode of Academics Talking Academics in (virtual) Elevators, School of Public Service Interim Dean Andy Giacomazzi and Marilyn Shuler Human Rights Initiative Director Lisa Meierotto discuss:

  • The Shuler Human Rights Initiative certificate program
  • What kind of classes and experiences a student would have while earning this certificate and what kind of student benefits from pursuing it
  • What kind of problems our students are working to solve

Student Spotlight - Cyd Covert

Photo Credit: William Bowers

Cydney Covert is pursuing a Multidisciplinary Studies degree with a Minor in Criminal Justice and a Certificate of Human Rights. Originally from Pensacola, Florida, she moved to Boise to train at Ballet Idaho’s academy at age 14.

Tell us a little about your current career.
I currently dance for Ballet Idaho, Project Flux, and LED. I’ve been in professional dance productions since I was 14 and was hired into the company as an apprentice at 16. My senior year of high school I was promoted to corps de ballet, meaning I’ve been dancing full-time for about four years now. This means I spend my days rehearsing and preparing for different performances. Aside from dance, I’ve also worked as one of the dancer representatives for the company, meaning I help communicate dancer concerns and negotiate our contract each season.

Given your professional background, why did you decide to pursue the Marilyn Shuler Human Rights Certificate as well?
Working as a dancer representative gave me insight into how necessary it is for our concerns and fears as populations to be addressed and fixed. That, and my work with incarcerated individuals at the Idaho Medium Security Prison, made me eager to learn more about how to advocate for those who are marginalized and oppressed. My artistic pursuits seem to combine well with this desire as I’ve had plenty of opportunities to address inequities in the dance world as well as in our general society. The Human Rights Certificate has given me the tools to address these inequities on a systemic level, like advocating for and against bills in the Idaho legislature. Though I recognize the healing power of art, I also note that big change happens with education and action.

What are your plans for the future?
I intend on continuing to dance for as long as I possibly can, as that is my first passion. However, having seen the intersection between art and activism firsthand, I’m dedicated to continuing to explore this. I’ve considered law school, but I’ve been balancing work and school for such a long time that I’m eager to focus exclusively on one thing. Dancing is an athletic career, meaning I only have so much time to enjoy this work. I plan on letting dance take me many places before I retire as I’m eager to open myself up to new and challenging experiences. I have an outline of how I’d like my life to go after dance, and it definitely involves advocacy. Regardless, I don’t think I’ll ever step away from the arts completely.

We understand that you have an interest in creative problem solving. How do you see the Marilyn Shuler Human Rights Certificate helping you develop and apply your problem-solving skills?
The Human Rights Certificate has taught me that there is no singular avenue for advocacy. Many of the problems we face right now are deeply personal, meaning we have to exercise incredible amounts of empathy in order to understand them. Those who are in a position of privilege, such as myself, must recognize that we can never truly understand some of the oppressive experiences of other members of our community. There is no “one size fits all” for advocacy. Some people are most successful pursuing this endeavor in the form of policy change, while others have recognized their talents lie in teaching others. I have recognized that I can utilize my own artistic pursuits to advocate for others, something that I didn’t necessarily consider valuable before pursuing this certificate. The Human Rights Certificate reminded me that my humanity is the most valuable and creative thing I can use to solve issues that affect my rights and the rights of others.

Course Spotlight - SPS 331: Advocacy in Action

Advocacy in Action is designed as a culminating learning experience for students earning Boise State’s Certificate in Human Rights. The course has an experiential component, where students contribute to social impact advocacy campaigns, and develop relevant skills, while exploring various strategies, actions, personal attributes, external factors, bridge-building tactics, and local community elements that are involved in advocacy work. The vision is for the course to be a capstone that students take after completing other courses in the certificate program. 

Read about SPS 331 on the Shuler Human Rights Initiative website

Marilyn Shuler Honorary Doctorate Speech

An honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree was awarded to Marilyn Shuler, former director of the Idaho Human Rights Commission, in 2014. Watch her speech to the Boise State graduating class of 2014 which she delivered upon receiving an honorary doctorate.