[HRL Human Rights Lab

Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice

“Hope has never trickled down. It has always sprung up.”
– Studs Terkel, American writer, historian, actor, and broadcaster

The city of Rome has long been a battleground for civil rights, a melting pot of multicultural diversity and revolutionary power struggles. Home to the Vatican as well as being the Capital of Italy, Rome provides ample opportunities to investigate questions of human culture, equity and social justice.


The Human Rights Lab consists of courses in Equity, Diversity and Social Justice. Some areas of further research include; Diversity in Mediterranean history, Global Migration, Indigenous and Changing Regional Cultures, Community Service and Civic Engagement, Memory, Oral History and Monuments, Gender and Women’s Studies.

Courses from the Catalog

  • HRL 101 Social Justice in Italy
  • HRL 201 Contemporary Italy: Culture and Society
  • HRL 301 Smart Cities and Participation: Urban Planning for Equity in Italy
  • HRL 401 Refugee Flows at the Mediterranean Crossroads 
  • INT 101 Academic Internship

Some Highlights of HRL Activities

Rome: a plural form of city, edited by Giorgio De Finis and Fabio Benincasa, Bordeaux Editions, 2021

New writings of Prof. Fabio of our Human Rights Laboratory

We’re always proud when our faculty contribute to the public discourse in their fields, in this case Fabio Benincasa writes about Rome’s collective imagination.

SERVICE LEARNING AND INTERNSHIPS in Equity, Diversity and Social Justice

Students may take part in workshops and field experience involving human rights organizations, NGOs, international aid and immigration. Our internships are curricular, followed closely by our faculty who coordinate public symposia and publications.

Students interested in enrolling in an academic internship while abroad will receive individual advising as our staff works to find the best customized internship placements for our students. As part of the Human Rights Lab at the Borromini Institute, you could have the chance to intern with an non-profit working to aid recent immigrants or fight for climate justice.

Community Engagement Projects

Hear from Historian Mary Beard about Rome’s Historic Immigration Issues

In this speech, Mary Beard points out that looking back at Rome can provide valuable insights into contemporary issues like migration and citizenship. In ancient times, Rome was a place of asylum, where refugees and asylum seekers could become Roman citizens. There was no concept of illegal migration, and the Romans freely granted citizenship to people. 2000 thousands years on, the world has changed and we face different challenges. However, understanding ancient cultures and their perspectives can help us reevaluate our own views on contemporary issues.


See our blog for news from the Human Rights Cluster

  • Exploring Southern Italy’s Welcoming Coast 

    Exploring Southern Italy’s Welcoming Coast 

    The Spring Program Visits Calabria One of the highlights of the program was the 5-day trip to the Calabria region in Italy’s south. The focus this time was on cultural diversity and inclusion, dear to our curriculum (in fact we dedicate an entire academic cluster to human rights). We were welcomed by the Italian Coast Guard, Red Cross volunteers,…

  • The Human Rights Lab Heads South

    The Human Rights Lab Heads South

    As part of our Human Rights Lab programming, the Borromini Institute organized a week-long trip for our University of Illinois and Hobart and William Smith College students into Italy’s deep south. We began in the Calabria region, headed into the island of Sicily, and concluded with an overnight ferry into the bustling city of Naples.…