Celebrate the Winners of the Human Rights Essay Contest | College of Arts and Sciences


Eight students ranging from high school to graduate school received awards in the 2021 Human Rights Essay Competition, organized by the Goldstein Family Community Chair in Human Rights.

The winners include:


  1. Mia Bourek
  2. Sarah brumfield
  3. Laura Betz Burch


  1. LeeAnna Lui
  2. Travis Justin Munyer
  3. Nyamar odol


  1. Manali Mukherjee
  2. Ben schott

Visit the Goldstein Center website to read the winning essays!

Mia Bourek, a UN graduate student in sociology with a minor in history, took first place in the graduate category and has written about genocide perpetrators, their actions and motivations, through a sociological lens. LeeAnna Lui, while a senior at the UN majoring in molecular and biomedical biology with a minor in bioinformatics, won first place in the undergraduate category and has written on health issues and the treatment of health as a human right.

Learn more about the two UNO students who won first place in their respective categories below.

Mia Bourek

Mia Bourek used her experience as a graduate student of the UN Sociology Program to write an essay on perpetrators of genocide, in particular the mobile extermination units used during the Holocaust in Eastern Europe, from a sociological point of view, essentially asking: what motivates a person or a group of people to voluntarily participate in acts of mass violence?

She wrote her essay, in part, in response to an ongoing historical debate called the Goldhagen Debate. An American writer, Daniel Goldhagen, published a controversial book in 1996 which argued that rampant anti-Semitism was the only reason writers participated in the Holocaust. He argued that eliminationist anti-Semitism was central to the personality of all Germans at this time – that all Germans wanted every Jew to die.

Bourek says his attempts from an anthropological perspective, a field similar to sociology in some ways, have been poorly done; Although this discussion has a place in the Holocaust debate, Goldhagen seemed to place more emphasis on shock value than precision in his assessment.

“I think we have to talk about anti-Semitism there, but the best approach would be how we talk about racism today where it is embedded in structures,” Bourek said. “We can participate, and our participation can lead to continued racism, whether racism is our intention or not. “

The oppression that leads to genocide is not an evil remote from ordinary people; anyone can be an author under the right circumstances and recognizing that societies need to move forward and do better. Bourek set out not only to provide a perspective on this topic, but also to ask, why aren’t there more sociological perspectives on genocide?

“The genocide is not only historical, it is modern. You can look at past genocides from a historical perspective, but the point is that there is genocide going on today, and people who study modern societies (sociologists) need to be involved, ”Bourek says.

Drawing inspiration from ongoing work on structural oppression and structural racism could help provide a modern sociological perspective to genocide studies. Bourek says she will continue this work and would like to further explore the sociology of genocide in doctoral studies.

LeeAnna Lui

LeeAnna Lui received her undergraduate degree in May 2021 and is now a master’s student in biology and hopes to eventually become a doctor. She has been conducting research in Dr Paul Davis’ lab for three years and also spent a summer researching at UNMC as an INBRE Fellow.

20181126_leeanna_lui.jpgIn his essay, Lui explored why health should be considered a human right and the limitations that currently exist in society. The world may not yet be in a position to respect this human right, but what factors should be involved in order for health to be treated as a human right?

She explored accessibility to health, the social determinants of health and issues of medical ethics.

Tells him that she took a course in medical ethics that sparked many of these ideas, as well as public health courses that helped broaden her understanding of these issues beyond the hard sciences. In chemistry and biology, for example, you often do not have the full picture of how health care is provided and accessible.

“When you explore the humanities a bit more and are open to hearing the perspectives of others, you learn more about these issues that everyone sees,” says Him. “The pandemic, COVID, was huge as we see all the existing disparities amplify in this situation. ”

While disparities in health care have been a long-standing problem, the pandemic has put more emphasis on inequalities in the United States and around the world. He researched the literature in areas where disparities are common, how the concept of human rights is defined and how it relates to these topics.

“I want people to see that access to health is a human right and that health care should be more accessible. I think my essay shows, hopefully, that although we have this concept and the world has recognized that health is a human right, we are far from getting there in any country. How do we address these gaps that we see and that I paint a picture of? “

For more information on the Goldstein Family Community Chair in Human Rights, visit this website: https://www.unomaha.edu/college-of-arts-and-sciences/goldstein-center-for-human-rights/ about-us /chaise-communautaire.php


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