Tiffany Lebrón '11, Allison Chan '11, and Sean Mulligan '11 at mouth of the Nile River.

Become a Summer Human Rights Fellow

Here you will find information on how to apply to be a Summer Human Rights Fellow, including fellowship requirements, funding information, and the application procedure.

Requirements & Application Procedures

BHRC Summer Human Rights Fellowships are granted annually to a select number of highly motivated UB School of Law students committed to combining practical field work experience and scholarly inquiry in the human rights field.

Fellows work over the course of a summer with a not-for-profit non-governmental or intergovernmental entity engaged in rights-based work on behalf of impacted communities. They then enroll in an advanced writing course in the Fall to further develop one of the difficult rights-impacting legal issues they worked on, with a view toward real-world problem-solving that places the dignity, security, equality, participation, and wellbeing of people and communities at the center of policy choices and decision-making in democratic society.

On this page:

Fellowship Requirements

  1. Minimum Hours of Field Work.  Fellows must complete a minimum of 400 hours of rights-based field work under the supervision of an approved organization or supervisor. 400 hours are the equivalent of 10 full-time weeks.
  2. Supervisor Assessment. Fellows must ask their supervisor to write a thorough evaluation of their work at the end of their stay with the host organization. This evaluation should be emailed directly to Prof. Tara Melish, Director of the Buffalo Human Rights Center.
  3. Enrollment in Fall 2021 in TUT801–Advanced Research and Writing: Applied Rights-Based Problem-solving. Fellows will take a problematic legal issue they encountered in their summer work and write a publishable quality paper on how the legal-policy framework that allows it can be changed to more effectively protect the rights of the people most impacted.
  4. Presentation of Work to UB Community. Fellows will be required to present their field work experience to the UB community in at least one panel forum with a view to enhancing community awareness of human rights issues, challenges, and work opportunities. They will be encouraged to consider adapting their research papers into student comments/notes for the Buffalo Law Review or Buffalo Human Rights Law Review (BHRLR).

Finding Placements

Applicants are responsible for identifying and directly contacting the human rights organizations with which they would like to work and in requesting placements consistent with the fellowship guidelines and with their interests and aptitudes. Within this process, the Buffalo Human Rights Center will provide assistance, as needed, in identifying appropriate organizations to those who have been accepted to the human rights fellowship program. The process of identifying an appropriate organization should begin as soon as possible.

Placement Logistics

Fellows are responsible for making their own travel and living accommodation arrangements.


$4,000 for international posts; $3,000 for domestic posts (to cover travel and living expenses).

Alternative Sources of Funding

The BHRC summer human rights fellowship program is a highly selective program in which not all 1L and 2L students interested in summer human rights work will be able to participate. For those who have not been selected as a 2021 Summer Human Rights Fellow, BPILP is another critical source of summer public interest funding available at the law school

  • Buffalo Public Interest Law Program is an organization designed to raise funds so that students may participate in non-paying or low-paying summer public interest experiences. BPILP receives applications (which are due around the end of March) at which time students must already have an internship/job secured. In weighing the BPILP applications, the BPILP organization places a heavy emphasis on the applicant’s involvement in BPILP. Accordingly, if you are interested in applying for a BPILP scholarship, please get involved as soon as possible and as much as possible with any and all BPILP activities BPILP generally awards $3,000 scholarships to accepted applicants.

Students may not receive BHRC Fellowships two years in a row, but may receive BHRC Fellowship funding one year and BPILP funding in another. All BHRC Fellow applicants are therefore strongly encouraged to participate in BPILP fundraising activities throughout their law school career.

Application Procedures

Submission Deadline: Applications are due no later than 5pm on February 13, 2021. Please email your application to tmelish@buffalo.edu.

Applications must include a:

  1. Curriculum vitae (resume)
  2. Statement of Interest and Internship Proposal: Description of proposed field of work, human rights interests and background.
  • In the style of a professional cover letter, addressed to the BHRC Summer Human Rights Fellowship Selection Committee
  • Your letter should describe:
  1. The thematic issue(s) or area(s) of human rights law that you would most like to engage and why, and the non-profit organizations to which you plan to apply;
  2. The general type of field work you are most interested in engaging, including examples of the kind of organization with which you most wish to work and the types of legal skills you want to develop (and why);
  3. The specific area, country or region you desire to work, and why.
  4. What you hope to get out of the fellowship and how it relates to your professional ambitions and trajectory;
  5. Any background or experience you might have in the human rights and social justice fields, including relevant coursework.