Rick Halperin

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

Georges Bwelle, Carol Brady Houston to receive 2016 Triumph of the Spirit Awards Wednesday, Nov. 16

Georges Bwelle

Georges Bwelle

African physician Georges Bwelle and special-needs children’s advocate Carol Brady Houston will receive SMU’s 2016 Triumph of the Spirit Awards during an evening of entertainment and celebration Wednesday, Nov. 16 at the Kessler Theater in Oak Cliff.

Sponsored by the University’s Embrey Human Rights Program (EHRP), the bi-annual awards reward both an international and local humanitarian with a total of $30,000. The awards and related festivities are supported by an anonymous donor.

The “VOICES”-themed event will feature music by former Sudanese child soldier and current hip-hop peace activist Emmanuel Jal; the country-folk music of Austin-based BettySoo; spoken-word and live-action performances by Journeyman Ink; and mixed-media works created by SMU students and local professionals.

Carol Brady Houston

Carol Brady Houston

“These awards – which put a human face on the struggle for human rights – are unique to SMU and are rarely offered by higher-education institutions. We’re fortunate we’re able to help extraordinary individuals empower marginalized people in innovative ways,” says EHRP Director Rick Halperin. “The event is also designed to revitalize the spirit of the entire Dallas community as we work to build a kinder and more humanitarian city.”

Event tickets, which support human rights programming, start at $50 (via prekindle.com/triumph) and include a pre-event reception, the awards celebration, catered hors d’oeuvres, cash bar and valet parking. While they last, you may also order balcony tickets for $5 each with the promo code Balcony.

For information related to discounts for students and others, contact Sherry Aikman, 214-768-8347.

> Read more from SMU News

SMU to honor global and local human rights champions with inaugural ‘Triumph of the Spirit’ awards Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014

Eliana Elias

Eliana Elias

Peruvian champion of indigenous women’s rights Eliana Elias and global-minded local educator Bhavani Parpia will be honored at SMU Wednesday, Nov. 12 as the first two recipients of Embrey Human Rights Program Triumph of the Spirit Awards. The awards carry a combined $30,000 in funding for the recipients made possible by an anonymous supporter of SMU’s undergraduate human rights program.

The inaugural Triumph of the Spirit event will include a 7 p.m. dinner in the Martha Proctor Mack Grand Ballroom and 6 p.m. courtyard reception. The evening will feature interviews with Elias, Parpia and other human rights leaders, a mix of music and spoken-word performances and mixed-media art by past and present Embrey Human Rights Program students.

Bhavani Parpia

Bhavani Parpia

Reserved tables and individual tickets for the event are available at various sponsorship levels. For details, visit SMU’s Triumph of the Spirit ticketing page, call 214-768-3241 or contact Bradley Klein.

The Triumph of the Spirit Awards aim to “reward people doing great work for others, sometimes at great risk to themselves,” says Embrey Human Rights Program Director Rick Halperin. “The awards represent a microcosm of life-changing work being done locally and around the world on issues affecting everyone. The awards also are meant to give us all hope that change can be made even by small steps of awareness and action.”

Elias and Parpia were selected for Triumph of the Spirit Awards from among several dozen human rights defenders nominated for providing selfless work on behalf of individuals and communities. The award selection committee, comprised of 19 SMU faculty and staff members, University alumni and regional community leaders and activists, chose Elias and Parpia for work best exemplifying the missions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Embrey Human Rights Program.

Global Award/$25,000 recipient: Eliana Elias

Eliana Elias has worked more than two decades in the Peruvian Amazon and other rural areas to engage and empower indigenous women and activists about their human rights.

As an expert in intercultural communications for social change, Elias has helped hundreds of non-governmental organizations and indigenous groups develop ways to strengthen leadership, education, health and conservation initiatives.

In 1998, Elias co-founded Minga Peru, an award-winning model geared to improving communication, gender equity and social change. Since then her work has been recognized and rewarded by groups including the Clinton School for Public Service in Arkansas, the Global Philanthropy Forum, Funders without Borders, Family Funders and Funders for Human Rights.

Regional Dallas Award/$5,000 recipient: Bhavani Parpia

Montessori teacher Bhavani Parpia is founder of the educational nonprofit ConnecTeach, helping underserved communities in South Asia and the Middle East improve the quality of education for hundreds of thousands of children one teacher at a time.

Parpia also serves as district world languages coordinator for the Hurst-Euless-Bedford Independent School District (HEB ISD), where she develops and oversees Arabic, Chinese and Hindi programs.

Before joining HEB ISD, Parpia founded the Primary School at North Hills Preparatory in Irving. Under her leadership, North Hills was ranked 13th-best performing school in the United States, and in 2013 she received the World Affairs Council International Educator of the Year award.

Written by Denise Gee

> Read the full story from SMU News

SMU experts join KERA for Freedom Summer 50th anniversary film preview & panel discussion Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Freedom Riders Julia Aaron and David Dennis

Julia Aaron, left, and David Dennis participated in a Freedom Ride from from Montgomery, Alabama, to Jackson, Mississippi in 1961. The Freedom Riders paved the way for Freedom Summer student volunteers. Photo credit: Paul Schutzer via ‘Freedom Riders’ c/o PBS

During the summer of 1964, more than 700 student volunteers joined with thousands of organizers and local African Americans to register new voters in Mississippi.

The violence that followed included the murders of three civil rights workers and the burning of dozens of churches, homes and community centers. Public outrage against these acts helped spur the U.S. Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In honor of Freedom Summer’s 50th anniversary, two SMU experts will join a former student activist and UNT law professor for KERA’s Freedom Summer Community Screening and Panel Discussion.

The screening and discussion take place 6:30-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 17, 2014 in KERA’s Community Room, 3000 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas. Admission is free; advance registration is required by 5:30 p.m. on the day. For details, contact engage@kera.org.

The event – which includes a preview of the June 24 PBS show “Voices of Freedom Summer” – is sponsored by KERA and the Embrey Family Foundation/SMU Embrey Human Rights Program with support from the South Dallas Cultural Center and the Dallas Faces Race think-tank.

“The racist issues civil rights activists confronted, primarily to ensure voting rights, aren’t just in the pages of history. They’re deeply entrenched to this day, but perhaps not as overtly visible,” says SMU Embrey Human Rights Program Director Rick Halperin, event moderator.

Featured panelists include:

Ernie McMillan, a Dallas native and former member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Student Congress On Racial Equality (SCORE). McMillan was an integral part of Texas-based civil rights demonstrations that, although often successful, led to his imprisonment for more than three years.

Dennis Simon, SMU’s Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor of political science in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences and organizer of SMU’s Civil Rights Pilgrimage, now in its 10th year.

Cheryl Brown Wattley, a University of North Texas law professor who spent more than 21 years in private practice, primarily as a criminal defense attorney and civil rights litigator. At UNT she is director of Experiential Education and teach courses in professional skills, criminal law, and professionalism.

Written by Denise Gee

> Read the full story at SMU News

Embrey Human Rights Program seeks nominees for new award

SMU's Embrey Human Rights Program graphicSMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program will present its first Triumph of the Spirit Award and $25,000 to a person who has dedicated his or her life to social justice and human rights issues on a local, national or global scale. A related award and $5,000 will go to a human rights defender in the Dallas-Fort Worth region.

“The Triumph of the Spirit Award is meant to serve as a symbol of hope in the continued struggle for human rights,” says Embrey Human Rights Program Director Rick Halperin.

Award winners must exemplify the missions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Embrey Human Rights Program, says Halperin, adding, “Often these human rights defenders are working against tremendous odds and at grave personal risk.”

The deadline to submit Triumph of the Spirit nominations is Monday, March 3. Winners will be announced Tuesday, July 1 and honored at a fall reception.

> Read more about the Triumph of the Spirit award and make a nomination online

SMU is the first university in the South and the only one west of Ohio to offer a Bachelor of Arts in human rights. Approved in 2011 by the SMU Board of Trustees, the academic degree was offered five years after the creation of the Embrey Human Rights Program in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

For more details about the Triumph of the Spirit Award, contact Bradley Klein, assistant director of the Embrey Human Rights Program, 214-768-3241.

Written by Denise Gee

> Visit SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program homepage

SMU examines the costs of capital punishment April 15-18, 2013

The Goddess of Liberty statue, Capitol Building, State of TexasAs the State of Texas draws closer to executing the 500th death row inmate since capital punishment resumed here in 1982, a multidisciplinary symposium on the SMU campus will address “Death By Numbers: What Moral, Legal and Economic Price Are We Paying to Maintain the Death Penalty?” April 15-18, 2013.

“Such a morbid milestone should make us stop and look at the record number of people being executed, the high cost of maintaining capital punishment and the increasing number of states eliminating it,” says Rick Halperin, director of SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program, the symposium’s sponsor.

Since the modern era, nearly 40 percent of all U.S. executions have occurred in Texas. “That significant number should make us wonder why this state so eagerly embraces capital punishment, despite evidence that mistakes have been made,” Halperin says.

All symposium events are free and open to the public. They include:

April 15 — The Legal Path to Execution, noon to 1:30 p.m., 201 Florence Hall. Dedman School of Law faculty will discuss the development of the U.S. Supreme Court’s limitations on capital punishment, the trend among states to abolish the death penalty, profiles of people who have been executed and changes that a person can undergo during incarceration. Panelists will be associate professor Vicki Palacios, assistant professor Meghan Ryan and instructor/mitigation specialist Vince Gonzales.

April 17 — Capital Punishment: Theological Perspectives, 12:30 to 1:25 p.m., Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Hall. Faculty members from Perkins School of Theology will discuss the death penalty from the vantage points of their academic disciplines. Panelists will be Susanne Scholz, associate professor of Old Testament; Joerg Rieger, Wendland-Cook Endowed Professor of Constructive Theology; Theodore Walker Jr., associate professor of ethics and society; and Joseph Allen, Professor Emeritus of Ethics. Note: Lunch can be purchased for $5 in the Prothro Hall Refectory at 12:15 p.m.; food and beverages will be allowed in the Great Hall.

April 18 — Literary, Societal & Economic Impacts of the Death Penalty, 7 to 9 p.m., 131 Dedman Life Sciences Building. Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences professors Dick Hawkins (Sociology), Mike Holahan (English), Steve Sverdlik (Philosophy) and Beth Wheaton (Economics) will engage in a panel discussion moderated by Dallas Morning News Editorial Writer Tod Robberson.

“Lighting the Torch of Conscience” — On May 7, closer to the projected date of the 500th execution, the Embrey Human Rights Program will sponsor the “Lighting the Torch of Conscience” demonstration expected to be the largest anti-death penalty event ever held in Dallas. It will include a press conference and vigil at 6 p.m. in front of the Dallas County Old Red Courthouse, 100 S. Houston Street in downtown Dallas, where public lynchings once took place.

For more details, contact Sherry Aikman, 214-768-8347.

Written by Denise Gee

Edwin Black discusses ‘IBM and the Holocaust’ at SMU Nov. 7, 2012

Bookcover, 'IBM and the Holocaust' by Edwin BlackEdwin Black’s account of how one of America’s most powerful corporations helped Nazi Germany systematically keep track of Jews, run trains and operate death camps will be examined when the acclaimed journalist-historian visits SMU Wednesday, Nov. 7, to discuss his New York Times-bestselling book, IBM and the Holocaust.

The free public talk and book signing, sponsored by SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, will begin at 7 p.m. in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Ballroom East.

Black writes of a secret alliance between the Third Reich and IBM, and the company’s subsequent “structured deniability.” The 2001 book, set to become a motion picture produced by Brad Pitt, also addresses U.S. corporate ethics and responsibility during one of the world’s darkest chapters, in which 11 million people were killed.

“IBM and its subsidiaries helped create enabling technologies, step-by-step, from the identification and cataloging programs of the 1930s to the selections of the 1940s,” Black says. Though computers as we know them did not exist, Black notes, IBM’s Hollerith punch-card technology helped facilitate the Nazis’ “Final Solution.”

“Edwin Black shatters the myth that powerful U.S. corporations, including Ford and Chrysler, had few dealings with Nazi Germany,” says Embrey Human Rights Program Director Rick Halperin. “In fact, his findings raise disturbing questions about America’s profits from the murder of millions of people across Europe.”

Black’s books include British Petroleum and the Redline Agreement (2011), The Farhud (2010), Nazi Nexus (2009), The Plan (2008), Internal Combustion (2006), Banking on Baghdad (2004), War Against the Weak (2003 and 2012), The Transfer Agreement (1984 and 2009) and the novel Format C: (1999).

For more information, call 214-768-8347 or visit smu.edu/humanrights.

Written by Denise Gee

For the Record: Sept. 7, 2012

Versatile Link logoAnnie Xiang, Physics, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, has received the U.S. Department of Energy Generic R&D award, a 3-year program (2012 to 2015) with a total funding of $202,500 to develop small-form-factor, high-reliability optical transmitters at the 120 Gbps range for high-bandwidth data transmission in future particle physics experiments. At SMU, she also leads the Versatile Link project, a collaboration with the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and Oxford University, funded through U.S. ATLAS.

SMU’s Center for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention has received the 2012 TIPS Award of Excellence for its anti-alcohol abuse training program. The award is presented by Health Communications, Inc., the providers of the Training for Intervention ProcedureS (TIPS) Program. SMU began implementing TIPS in early 2007 to train students in how to make sound choices when faced with challenging decisions regarding alcohol use. The Award of Excellence winner is chosen based on both volume of students certified and feedback from TIPS Trainers and student participants.

Brian Zoltowski, Chemistry, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, has received a $250,000 grant from the Herman Frasch Foundation for Chemical Research for his research focusing on the photoreceptor protein, one of the many proteins involved in an organism’s circadian clock. The photoreceptor protein enables plants to know when the spring and fall occur and to produce flowers or fruit at the appropriate time of year. The Frasch Foundation awards grants to nonprofit incorporated institutions to support research in the field of agricultural chemistry that will be of practical benefit to U.S. agricultural development. Grants are awarded for a period of five years, subject to annual review and approval on evidence of satisfactory progress.

Rick Halperin, Embrey Human Rights Program, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, has written the foreword to Echoes of the Lost Boys of Sudan, a graphic novel by James Disco about the Sudanese genocide and an international incident in which more than 20,000 children – mostly boys – ranging in age from 7 to 17 were displaced or orphaned during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005). Read more from the Huffington Post. (Right, an image from the book.)

Lori Ann Stephens, English, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, has written The Lingerer – a libretto based on the story The Sweeper of Dreams by Neil Gaiman – which has been chosen as a finalist in the 2012 English National Opera Minioperas competition. More than 500 librettos were entered, and 10 were selected as finalists; Stephens is the only finalist from the USA. During the next two phases of the competition, composers create music based on one of the 10 librettos, and filmmakers create videos to accompany them. Stephens has been invited to London for the final presentations in October. Listen to the music written for Stephens’ libretto by composer Julian Chou-Lambert. audio

Louis Jacobs, Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, has been named the winner of the 2012 Skoog Cup presented by the Science Teachers Association of Texas (STAT) as part of its STAT Awards program. The Skoog Cup is awarded to a faculty or staff member at a Texas college or university who “has demonstrated significant contributions and leadership in the development of quality science education.” Jacobs and the other STAT Award winners will be honored at the Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching (CAST) Nov. 8-10 in Corpus Christi.

Michael Corris, Art, Meadows School of the Arts, has been named reviews editor of the Art Journal, a publication of the College Art Association (CAA). CAA states its mission as “[promoting] the visual arts and their understanding through committed practice and intellectual engagement.”

Bezalel (Ben) Gavish, Information Technology and Operations Management, Cox School of Business, has been elected a Fellow of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS). Only 12 members of the Institute were elected Fellows in 2012. They will be honored on Oct. 15 at the 2012 INFORMS Annual Meeting in Phoenix.

Ed Biehl, Chemistry, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, has received the 2012 Kametani Award for achievements in the field of heterocyclic chemistry. The $3,000 award was created in 1999 and is presented annually in memory of the founder of Heterocycles, the official journal of The Japan Institute of Heterocyclic Chemistry. The award is sponsored by the Institute and the journal’s publisher, Elsevier.

Anita Ingram, Risk Management, has been voted 2012-13 president-elect of the University Risk Management and Insurance Association (URMIA). She and the other new URMIA officers will be inducted Oct. 2 at the organization’s 43rd Annual Conference in Providence, Rhode Island. URMIA is an international nonprofit educational association promoting “the advancement and application of effective risk management principles and practices in institutions of higher education.” It represents more than 545 institutions of higher education and 100 companies.

SMU Rwanda travelers seek school supplies for August 2012 trip

UPDATE Aug. 2, 2012: Thanks to donations from the SMU community and friends, the Embrey Human Rights Program travelers will leave for Rwanda tomorrow with 12 suitcases filled with 200 pounds of school supplies and 250 pounds of books (from Half-Price Books) to share with children at the Urukundo Home for Children.

Former SMU student (now alumna) Astrud Villareal helps with a construction project at the Urukundo Home for Children during a Embrey Human Rights Program trip to Rwanda in 2009. Photo by Sherry Aikman.

Twenty SMU students and staffers will be in Rwanda Aug. 3-13, 2012, on a two-fold mission: Not only to see how the African country is recovering from its 1994 civil war — in which up to a million people were killed in 100 days — but also to share educational and medical supplies with Rwandan youth.

The Embrey Human Rights Program travel group is still seeking such school supplies as pencils and pens, slim notebooks, small tape dispensers, slim packages of paper, and “anything portable,” says program coordinator Sherry Aikman.

Donated items will be accepted at 109 Clements Hall until Wednesday, Aug. 1.

The travel group will take extra suitcases loaded with school supplies as well as seven boxes of books for children and young adults given to them by Half Price Books. They also will have medical supplies donated in part by Project C.U.R.E., a Denver-based service group for which SMU student Hayley Wagner is a summer intern.

Wagner, who recently traveled to Rwanda on the Student Leadership Initiative trip led by Embrey Human Rights Program Associate Director Pat Davis, helped the Embrey program purchase $2,000 worth of medical supplies for $200. The kits will be given to the Urukundo Home for Children.

This is the third year the Embrey Human Rights Program has sponsored the Rwanda trip, which will have the group visiting schools, orphanages and genocide sites to meet with survivors.

“We’ll be interacting not only with the issues of genocide, which are so visually present throughout the country, but also with the people and organizations working for a better Rwanda,” says Embrey Human Rights Program Director Rick Halperin, who is leading the trip.

For more information visit smu.edu/humanrights or call Aikman at 214-768-8347.

— Denise Gee

Panel examines ‘Seeking Justice in the Face of Hate’ April 5, 2012

How long does a person or community have to wait for justice? A state legislator – representing an Allen family that believes their son’s 2009 stabbing death was a miscarriage of justice – will join four others with uniquely compelling perspectives on crimes involving hate and what Rick Halperin, director of SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program, describes as “legal systems that have let us down.”

The panel discussion, “Seeking Justice in the Face of Hate,” will take place 7-9 p.m. in SMU’s McCord Auditorium, 306 Dallas Hall. The event, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program, the Embrey Family Foundation and Project X: TheatreDanceMusicFilm.

Featured panelists include:

  • Acclaimed playwright Erik Ehn of Brown University, whose work addresses violence, genocide and faith — and whose play Diamond Dick, about the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, opens in Dallas April 13. A musical preview will be presented during the panel event.
  • Rep. Lon Burnam, who will highlight the legal issues surrounding a local Muslim family seeking justice for the murder of their son.
  • Cece Cox, executive director & CEO of Resource Center Dallas, one of North Texas’ primary LGBT and HIV/AIDS service organizations.
  • Detective Terry Trail of the SMU Police Department, who will talk about hate groups in America and how they use the Internet.
  • Hate-crime survivor and World Without Hate peace activist Rais Bhuiyan.

For more details, visit smu.edu/humanrights or call 214-768-8347.

Above, Rais Bhuiyan talks about his experiences as a hate-crime survivor in an SMU-TV story by student journalist Bridget Bennett dated Sept. 12, 2011. Click the Vimeo screen to watch, or click this link to watch the Rais Bhuiyan interview in a new windowvideo

Written by Denise Gee

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