Lauren Embrey

New book on Holocaust Poland commemorates 10th anniversary of SMU human rights program

'No Resting Place' book coverBearing witness to Poland’s deep physical and emotional scars that linger long after World War II – when the Nazis made the country the epicenter of the Holocaust – is the focus of a new book by SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program.

No Resting Place: Holocaust Poland (Terrace Partners, $39.95) combines more than 200 contemporary photos of occupied Poland’s deadliest Holocaust sites with historical vignettes and poignant observations from those who have experienced one of the most comprehensive, longest-running Shoah study trips offered by a U.S. university.

> Read a preview of No Resting Place: Holocaust Poland

Each December, the two-week “Holocaust Poland” trip – led for more than 20 years by SMU Prof. Rick Halperin – exposes students and lifelong learners to the Third Reich’s genocidal “Final Solution to the Jewish Question.” Both the trip and book are meant to ensure historical remembrance and “history as warning,” says history professor and co-author Halperin. “In our increasingly polarized world, where hate crimes against Jews and Muslims are on the rise, the need for tolerance and understanding has never been greater.”

Dallas philanthropist and SMU alumna Lauren Embrey (’80, ’06) couldn’t agree more. Embrey’s life would be profoundly changed by the 2005 “Holocaust Poland” pilgrimage she took while pursuing a Master of Liberal Studies (MLS) degree at SMU. In 2006, Lauren, her sister Gayle, and their Embrey Family Foundation funded the pioneering Embrey Human Rights Program, led by Halperin, within SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. In 2012, enthusiasm for the program allowed SMU to go from offering a human rights minor and MLS concentration in human rights and social justice to providing a Bachelor of Arts degree in the field, making SMU one of only five U.S. universities to do so. (Since then, two others have followed suit.)

Since Halperin began leading SMU study trips to Poland in 1996, the number of participants has grown from a handful to more than three dozen who went on the 20th anniversary pilgrimage in 2016 (including two dozen students able to travel thanks to a gift from SMU alumnus Mike Disque ’64 and his wife, Cherri). To commemorate the program’s 10th anniversary and trip’s second decade, Halperin teamed up with SMU colleagues Sherry Aikman and Denise Gee to create No Resting Place.

The trio’s primary objective was to produce a book sensitively depicting “the last places ever seen by millions of innocent people who didn’t want to die in such horrific places,” Halperin says. “And unlike most other Holocaust books we wanted this one to be produced in color – because the Holocaust happened in color.”

— Written by Denise Gee

> Read the full story from SMU News

SMU trustees approve new Human Rights major to begin Spring 2012

SMU Embrey Human Rights Program logoSMU has become the first university in the South, and only the fifth in the country, to offer an academic major in human rights. Approved Sept. 9 by the University’s Board of Trustees, the Bachelor of Arts in human rights degree comes five years after creation of the Embrey Human Rights Program at SMU.

The undergraduate degree program officially begins in Spring 2012, but most SMU students will be allowed to apply past or current courses toward the degree, says Embrey Human Rights Program Director Rick Halperin. The human rights major will offer two interdisciplinary tracks: one on gender and human rights, the other on public policy and human rights.

“I have always believed that if you appealed to the better nature in people, and then offered them opportunities to put their passion into practice, that this degree would be a natural,” Halperin says. “It is beyond my comprehension that programs like this do not exist throughout this country, but at least it now exists here.”

The only other U.S. universities to offer human rights majors are Bard College and Columbia University/Barnard College in New York, the University of Dayton in Ohio and Trinity College in Connecticut.

The new major is the result of Dallas philanthropist Lauren Embrey‘s travel with Halperin’s study group to Polish Holocaust sites in December 2005. Embrey, then enrolled in SMU’s Master of Liberal Arts program, returned from the trip determined to share her life-changing experience. In the six years since the trip, sisters Lauren and Gayle Embrey and the Embrey Family Foundation have committed substantial financial support for the Embrey Human Rights Program, which began in 2006, and the minor, which followed in 2007.

“The human rights major at SMU creates the ability to educate and broaden awareness, to challenge prevailing world views and to promote a rights-based society that minimizes injustice,” Lauren Embrey says. “We are also proud that the program can be seen as a model for other human rights education programs, and that it offers varied programming open to the community beyond SMU.”

The Embrey Foundation’s vision “will allow the major to be a signature program for SMU and for Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences,” says Dean William Tsutsui. “It not only will prepare students to understand human rights issues around the world, but also will equip them with the skills necessary to make a real difference and effect meaningful change,” he says. “The graduates of this important and timely new major will be the leaders of the next generation of global human rights advocates.”

So far 200 students have either formally declared the minor or are taking courses toward declaring the minor in the fastest growing program at SMU. Halperin, a nationally known human rights activist and former two-time chair of Amnesty International, says many students already have expressed interest in pursuing the new major, which will consist of 30 hours of traditional coursework, a minor in a related field and 12 hours of a foreign language.

> Read the full story from SMU News
> Visit the Embrey Human Rights Program homepage