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Messages from the Directors

Prof. Joyce Apsel
Course Director

The Genocide and Human Rights University Program is a learning model creating dialogues about history and reconciliation as well as forming a community and network of committed, informed citizens and scholars worldwide.


The GHRUP serves as a valuable pedagogical model for teaching about genocide and human rights. Invited specialists use comparative frameworks and the curriculum is adjusted to reflect student interest and new scholarship within the field.


The pedagogical model of the program includes classroom dialogue and critique, along with a high level of respect for differences in background and opinion. For example, interactions between students of Turkish and Armenian background provide opportunities to explore issues of stereotypes, memory, denial, and reconciliation. The course also provides training for new generations in research, publications, teaching, and advocacy in fields relating to genocide and human rights.

Dr. Roger W. Smith
Program Director

Comparative genocide studies can help us understand the conditions under which genocide and other mass atrocities are likely to take place. Once the characteristics of genocide are identified, it becomes predictable; once the crime of genocide becomes predictable, then there is a greater chance for genocide to become preventable.


The GHRUP is a unique course developed to fill a gap in the traditional university curriculum which exposes students to the conflicts and paradoxes of attempting to prevent genocide and save human lives without avoiding the complexities and moral dilemmas. My own view is that one of the single most effective means to end the slaughter of so many millions is for states to expand their concept of national interest to include the prevention of genocide and mass atrocity.

As both a teacher and the Program Director, my own experience has been a very encouraging one. When I started teaching comparative genocide over thirty years ago, the subject was new, published information was scarce, and the number of interested students small. Over the past decade with the GHRUP, I have met scores of highly motivated students who come with an interest in one particular case study or another, but leave with an appreciation of genocide as a shared human phenomenon and the immensity of its impact.


Dr. Doris Bergen
University of Toronto, Department of History

The Genocide and Human Rights University Program is a remarkable initiative. I've been teaching in the program since 2007, and each year is a new and rewarding experience. The GHRUP brings together people from all over the world, with different areas of expertise, for two intense weeks of study about the most painful issues imaginable. Somehow the combination of academic rigor, an urgent subject, and lively sociability generates an amazing positive energy. I've learned so much from the other instructors and from the participants - you don't meet people like these anywhere else.

As a professor at the University of Toronto, I'm especially proud that the GHRUP takes place on our campus. It's an honour to host distinguished scholars like Joyce Apsel, Bill Schabas, Jim Waller, and others and to welcome the wonderful participants, many of whom are in Canada for the first time. Our university is enlivened by their presence. Over the years, I've recommended the program to many people, and every one of them has found it profoundly meaningful to be part of this dynamic group.

K.M. Greg Sarkissian

Being a descendent of genocide survivors, the University Program has provided me the knowledge, tools and the community for understanding and reconciling the lasting imprints of genocide trauma.

Imagine the interactions between Armenians and Turks, Hutus and Tutsis, Jews and Arabs, Muslims and Christians, all cohabiting and learning from some of the most renowned scholars in the field. At the start of the course, each student comes with their own prejudices and preconceived ideas about “the other.” By the end of the course, they leave as humans bound by values of humanity and kinship devoid of the “us vs. them” mentality.

For the last 16 years, I have witnessed firsthand the impact that this program has had on graduate students who go on to excel in their respective fields. Each year, the IIGHRS staff and I are reminded of the importance of its continuity and endurance as it contributes to understanding the phenomena of genocide and helps engage people in efforts to help prevent it.


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