Shanna Corner

Author: Jennifer Fulton

Here at the Nanovic Institute, we receive a lot of grant applications from graduate students studying English, literature, history, and philosophy. But sociology? Not so much. Thus, we're thrilled to spotlight Shanna Corner, a PhD candidate in sociology. Shanna received a Graduate Break Travel and Research Grant to travel to one of the United Nations' Convention on the Elimination of Descirimination Against Women committee's tri-annual sessions. The work that she's done on human rights is truly impressive. She recently sent us an account of her experience in Switzerland.

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The Graduate Break Research and Travel Grant that I received this semester from the Nanovic Institute for European Studies facilitated my travel to Geneva, Switzerland. While there, I spent two weeks attending the public meetings of the most recent session of a UN human rights treaty body that I have been studying for the last several years as a graduate student. Learning more about the nature of these meetings and observing the reporting that was taking place enabled me to develop an expanded understanding of the dynamics involved in these types of sessions and the role that they play, which I could not have gained without actually being at these events themselves.

After spending so much time analyzing materials related to this area and contemplating theorization about the human rights system and the construction and promotion of particular human rights norms, it was extremely gratifying to be able to actually see the nature of these meetings in person. Having the ability to attend multiple days of meetings, during which the delegations of several different countries presented their country reports, also allowed me to gain more knowledge of similarities and differences across these states. Given the variation in the characteristics of these countries, I was able to deepen my knowledge of the European countries involved in this session and how they were similar and different from both each other and the wider range of countries that were involved in reporting.

I am working to become a scholar who studies the human rights system, so having the opportunity to actually go to the location where these events that I am studying are taking place and gain this kind of firsthand knowledge was a vital educational experience for me. This strengthened and expanded knowledge will allow me to produce stronger analysis and arguments in the future, and will also help to increase my credibility as a person working in this subject area. 

I am very grateful to the Nanovic Institute for providing me with funding that has allowed me to attend this session. Without this funding it would have been very difficult for me to make this trip. Given the time-sensitive nature of my work toward my dissertation completion and my need to gain access to events like this session at the United Nations as they happen, it is incredibly helpful to have access to such generous funding. The need to learn more about the characteristics of European countries in their approaches to specific human rights, as well as how they influence, overlap with, and are impacted by larger global cultural norms related to this area, is vital. I am deeply grateful to the Nanovic Institute for providing me with the chance to actually play a role in conducting on-the-ground research that opens up knowledge about these issues. The research that I was able to conduct during this trip has helped me to hone my project design. In addition, it will play a critical role in contextualizing and grounding the remainder of my work in completing my dissertation.