A new director of Christopher Newport University's Reiff Center for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution has big plans to put the center on the map.
Suparna Chaudhry, assistant professor of political science, is in her first semester at CNU. Her approach to advancing the work done at the Reiff Center is three-pronged.
The most public-facing is the scheduling of speakers and talks about issues facing societies, such as genocide and nuclear weapons. A recent panel focused on conflict resolution in Iran and North Korea.
On Wednesday, the Reiff Center will host its latest speaker, Mara Revkin, a fellow with the Abdallah S. Kamel Center for the Study of Islamic Law and Civilization at Yale Law School. She conducts fieldwork in Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan.
Revkin's talk,"Understanding Civilians Under ISIS Control," and the question-and-answer session that follows, will help give those in the audience a better understanding of what's going on across the globe.
"One of the cooler things (Revkin has) found is some people have the means to leave and not live under ISIS, but they're choosing to live under ISIS," Chaudhry said. "That's kind of interesting, because in public discourse we often tend to think 'ISIS is governing by force, by coercion. These poor people have to stay there.'
"So I think if just we can get a better sense of, well, people are choosing to live under ISIS, (and) why is this? We can perhaps start having a more nuanced public debate."
Another part of the center's work is professional development for students interested in working in fields such as human rights or environmental justice.
Chaudhry's third, and perhaps most ambitious, goal at the Reiff Center is creating a hub of data and research that policymakers can turn to for information. Some of that work comes from the center's interns, such as senior Josh Dutro.
He and others write for the center's blog to spread their work; Dutro's latest post is titled: "Conflict in Yemen: The World's Forgotten Humanitarian Crisis." Dutro said he switched majors from communications to political science thanks to Reiff Center events that piqued his interest.
Another intern, senior Ilana Lisann, said that her time with the center has helped prepare her for work she hopes to do with the State Department or other government offices.
"The events are very broad, because it's like human rights and conflict resolution, so that can incorporate lots of different things, so I feel like it's just really expanded my horizons," she said.
The center was founded several years ago and endowed by Theodore R. Reiff, a retired doctor, researcher and founder of the Genocide Education Project.
"I think the big deal with Reiff is if you look around the world, there's an awful lot of places where there are human rights violations or incredible partisan conflicts," said Provost David Doughty. "And the Reiff Center is the vehicle for us at CNU to provide leadership in understanding these problems and working to solve them. ...
"We're putting resources behind this because it's a serious problem, and we want CNU to be a voice in bringing about solutions and resolutions to these problems."