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University of Iowa News Release

Jan. 27, 2005

New Leadership Takes Reins At UI Center For Human Rights

A new generation of leaders takes the helm of the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights (UICHR) this month, marking the center's first major organizational change since its founding in 1999.

Kenneth Cmiel, UI professor of history and American studies, is the center's new director, carrying on the work of emeritus law professor and UICHR founding director Burns H. Weston. Amy Weismann, an Iowa City attorney with specialized training in refugee and international criminal law, has filled the deputy director position vacated by Chivy Sok, an internationally recognized leader on human rights and child labor who nurtured the UICHR during its first three years.

" I am absolutely delighted by these two new appointments," said Weston, who stepped down from the UICHR directorship in December. "It signals to me that the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights has an exciting and productive future. I hope the university community will give them its complete and robust support."

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 multidisciplinary collection of essays titled "Child Labor and Human Rights: Making Children Matter." Currently, he is working on the third edition of his textbook, "Human Rights in the World Community: Issues and Action."

Despite stepping down from his UICHR post, Weston has no plans for slowing down. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) recently appointed him a senior advisor on human rights to its think tank, the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre in Florence, Italy.

Weston's contributions live on through the annual Burns H. Weston International Human Rights Essay Competition. Created last October to honor his work, the competition is open to all registered UI students and seeks to promote understanding and the continuing advancement of international human rights. It is expected to be open to students worldwide next year.

Founded in 1999, the UICHR is a direct outgrowth of Global Focus: Human Rights '98, the yearlong UI commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of Dec. 10, 1948. Initiated by a multidisciplinary group of faculty, the center's mission is to support the promotion and protection of human rights at home and abroad by providing leadership in human rights research, education, and public service to the UI, its surrounding community, the state of Iowa, and beyond.

Cmiel has taught human rights courses at the UI for the last 10 years and is deeply committed to advancing human rights research and writing. He has published widely on the history of political ideas and the history of mass communication. Most recently, he is working on the history of human rights politics and is especially interested in how ideas about human rights have played out around the world since 1900. He has lectured throughout the United States and Europe and is currently writing a book on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year he was awarded the university's Global Scholar Fellowship and has been chosen to give the university's prestigious presidential lecture in February.

Cmiel received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1986, and in 1987 his book "Democratic Eloquence" won the Allan Nevins Prize from the Society of American Historians. Cmiel routinely teaches classes in the global history of human rights. He also teaches a course on the history of popular music in the United States.

An Iowa City native, Weismann holds a J.D. from the UI College of Law and an A.B. from Bryn Mawr. She has clerked for the Seventh Judicial District of Iowa and practiced law in Iowa City with the Larew Law Office before joining the UICHR as deputy director this month.

Weismann has specialized training in refugee and international criminal law, substantial experience in refugee resettlement casework and non-profit administration and management, as well as field experience as a humanitarian aid worker. She has worked for domestic community organizations, international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and agencies of the United Nations, including the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

Weston says Weismann "brings in-depth intellectual training in human rights and much important human rights field experience -- in the Balkans, especially -- to her new post, including administration and fund-raising."

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.

More information about the UICHR may be found online at

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

MEDIA CONTACT: Media: Stephen Pradarelli, 319-384-0007,