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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 11, 2004

UICHR Announces Weston International Human Rights Essay Competition

To honor the lifetime work of its founder, Burns H. Weston, the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights (UICHR) has created an annual essay contest open to all registered UI students. The Burns H. Weston International Human Rights Essay Competition will promote understanding and the continuing advancement of international human rights and will be an enduring legacy for Weston, an internationally renowned scholar in this field.

Essays can discuss current events or history, public policy, law, or the arts and humanities. The only requirement is that students address issues of international human rights. Two prizes will be awarded: $750 to an undergraduate and $1,000 to a graduate or professional student. The deadline for the submission of essays is March 31, 2005. Applications can be downloaded from the UICHR website:

Weston will step down as director of UICHR on Dec. 31 to devote more time to the many international projects with which he is involved. He was recently invited  by UNICEF's Innocenti Research Centre in Florence, Italy, to assume a position of senior advisor to the Centre on human rights and related issues. He will be  succeeded at the UICHR by Kenneth Cmiel, UI history professor and chair of the Burns H. Weston International Human Rights Essay Prize Committee. Cmiel has taught human rights courses at the UI for the last 20 years and is deeply committed to advancing human rights research and writing.

"In addition to honoring a towering figure in international human rights and a very dear friend, this essay competition is also a wonderful opportunity for UI students who have interests in exploring important research questions," said Cmiel. "Our students have some of the most creative outlooks and thinking about human rights. This competition will help them channel their thoughts and contribute to the advancement of human rights knowledge, a goal championed by Professor Weston."

Currently Bessie Dutton Murray Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus at the UI College of Law where he has been a member of the faculty since 1966, Weston has spent the bulk of his career teaching, writing and working on behalf of human rights. His most recent book, "The Future of International Human Rights," will soon be followed by the publication of a collection of essays entitled "Child Labor and Human Rights." Currently, he is working on the third edition of his textbook, "Human Rights in the World Community: Issues and Action."

In 1998-99, he spearheaded "Global Focus: Human Rights '98," the world's largest academically-based commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, bringing many Nobel laureates, dignitaries, scholars, and other important international human rights figures to Iowa City. Inspired by the success of that effort, Weston then set about to establish the UICHR, an idea that took life on his laptop as he successfully battled cancer.

"The UICHR has grown and flourished in the years since, largely due to Burns's dedication to the alleviation of human suffering and passionate commitment to a more humane world," said William Reisinger, associate provost for academic programs and dean of UI International Programs.

Some of Weston's most prominent UICHR activities have been high profile projects related to economic, social and cultural rights. Most recently, in his capacity as the principal investigator, he oversaw the successful completion of a Global Worker Rights Research Initiative funded by the U.S. Department of State and a multifaceted Child Labor Research Initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Labor.

"For nearly four decades, Burns Weston has insistently and effectively kept our University community focused on international human rights, the key to a peaceful world. The Weston Essay competition assures that present and future students will be stimulated to engage human rights issues from a global perspective," said Willard "Sandy" Boyd, former UI president who was responsible for Weston's hiring in 1966.

Always with an eye to the realization of a world public order of human dignity, Weston has experimented with many different international law courses and seminars and researched and written widely in the international law field during his almost 40-year tenure at the UI, said N. William Hines, former dean of the UI College of Law.

"No ivory tower scholar, Professor Weston also has pioneered problem-oriented teaching methods and the development of some of the most interesting interdisciplinary curricula related to contemporary global issues offered on the UI campus," Hines said.  In 1973, he orchestrated the establishment of what for 30 years was known as the UI Global Studies Program. Most recently, he developed and taught an advanced research seminar on international human rights and child labor, one of the most timely global issues of our time. "His academic leadership leaves a powerful legacy at the UI that has shaped and influenced the thinking of many students, practitioners, and scholars alike."

The UICHR is affiliated with the UI International Programs, which consists of a number of offices, centers, degree programs, academic programs, research projects and services. Organized under the associate provost for academic programs and dean for International Programs, these units serve to further internationalize the campus and community and promote global scholarship, research and teaching.

For more information, contact the UICHR at 319-335-3900 or

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Lois Gray, 319-335-2026, Program: Kenneth Cmiel, 319-335-2294,