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The Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights Drew Erin Welch to UC Law

Law student Erin Welch travelled 700 miles to UC Law for the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights. She shares her thoughts on the impact of the Institute and they experiences she has had. 

Erin Welch ’15 grew up in Niceville, Florida.  She remained in the Sunshine State to attend Florida State University, graduating with degrees in both international affairs and music (with a focus on voice).  What brought her 700 miles north for law school?  The Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights.

Since 1979 the Urban Morgan Institute has educated and trained human rights lawyers.  “I came to UC entirely for the Urban Morgan Institute,” said Welch.  While she was involved with the Florida State’s human rights institute during her undergraduate years, she was encouraged by a mentor to apply to UC Law and to the Urban Morgan Institute. Her acceptance was the deciding factor.

The Urban Morgan Institute offers an excellent opportunity for first year law students to become involved in working on a journal with Human Rights Quarterly (HRQ).  She became involved with the Quarterly during her first year, and is the journal’s newest Managing Editor going into her third year at UC Law.  “It has given me an opportunity to learn about different cultures and about various human rights issues around the world,” she said of her time on the HRQ as a staff person.

Students involved with the HRQ and the Urban Morgan Institute enjoy the opportunity to spend time abroad working at various human rights centers around the world.  Thus this past summer, Welch traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, choosing this location for several reasons.  “I have always admired the human rights struggle in South Africa and wanted to get to know the history firsthand,” she shared.  “I also thought it would be enlightening to experience South African culture since several aspects mirror our own culture.” >

Welch worked for about two months at the Women’s Legal Centre Trust which, she explained, is a nonprofit firm that only accepts female clients and advocates for women’s rights through targeted litigation and policy initiatives.  She worked with the attorney specializing in family law.  “We focused on a huge issue there – the rights of Muslim women in religious marriages,” she explained.  In South Africa, Muslim marriages are the only kind of marriages not legally recognized.  Her assignment included drafting a booklet for circulate to raise public awareness on the issue and to persuade the public and the government of the necessity for legislation on the issue.  She spent many hours researching Shari’a law – specifically husbands’ and wives’ rights under it – and South African Constitutional law, as well as case law on various facets of the issue of Muslim marriages. 

Not working all the time, Welch recalled several fun experiences while abroad. These include: attending a sunrise church service at St. George’s Cathedral presided over by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, aquarium diving with sharks, and riding an elephant named “Totsi,” which translates to “Naughty.”

“Do it,” is her message to anyone considering an experience abroad.  “Becoming familiar with another culture or the laws of another country is very enlightening, both concerning aspects of your own culture or legal system that you appreciate or in terms of things that you think could be better at home,” she said.  Welch hopes to have the opportunity to travel and work in the Middle East, in Lebanon or Jordan. 

Eric Munas ’15