Thursday, September 30, 2010

Finding Graduate Programs to do Human Trafficking Research

I spent this fall applying to return to graduate school to obtain my Masters and conduct research on human trafficking. New research will be necessary for improving our understanding and ability to combat trafficking.

Some great research has been done already. Last October, I attended the First Annual Interdisciplinary Conference on Human Trafficking at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln. The call for papers for the Second Annual Conference has already been posted, and this is a tremendous opportunity to learn about some of the research efforts that are already going on in the field of trafficking and meet academics from institutions which may interest you.

I thought for this post, however, that I would share some of my experiences searching for graduate programs that I felt would be helpful to those of our readers who are considering the same options for continuing their education. I will add the caveat that I did not search very much outside of the U.S. so this post will be focused mostly on U.S. Institutions. This post will also likely require multiple parts in order to outline some of the different considerations that probably will go into a decision on a graduate program. Today, let's focus on some obvious suggestions: Look for schools that already have scholars and research centers with a focus on human trafficking.

If you're considering following a specific researcher/professor, here are some people to consider:

Dr. Ato Qauyson, University of Toronto: Professor of English and Director of the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies. Organized the conference The Commodification of Illicit Flows.

Professor Claude d'Estree, University of Denver: Lecturer in the DU Josef Korbel School of International Studies (JKSIS) and Executive Director of the Human Trafficking Clinic, Prof. d'Estree is also a Senior Advisor to Colorado Task Force on Human Trafficking.

Dr. Mohamed Mattar, Johns Hopkins University: Executive Director of the Protection Project, Dr. Mattar has worked in over 50 countries to promote state compliance with international human rights standards and has advised governments on drafting and implementing anti-trafficking legislation.

Dr. Sheldon Zhang, San Diego State University: Professor and Department Chair of Sociology, Dr. Zhang's recent publications include "Beyond the 'Natasha' Story" and Smuggling and Trafficking in Human Beings: All Roads Lead to America.

Professor Amy Farrell, Northeastern University: Assistant Professor of College of Criminal Justice and Associate Director of the Institute on Race and Justice, she has recently conducted research on local law enforcement responses to human trafficking and is currently leading the development of a national human trafficking data collection program for the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Professor Jacqueline Bhabha, Harvard University: Jeremiah Smith Jr. Lecturer in Law at Harvard Law School, the Director of the Harvard University Committee on Human Rights Studies, and a Lecturer in Public Policy at the Kennedy School, she is currently working on issues of child migration, smuggling and trafficking, and citizenship.

Dr. Thomas Steinfatt, Miami University: Professor of Communication Studies, his research on trafficking in women and children has been funded by USAID and is used by the U.S. State Department in combating human trafficking in Cambodia.

Dr. Mary Burke, Carlow University: Dr. Mary Burke is a faculty member in the Psychology Department at Carlow University where she is the Director of Training for the Doctoral Program in Counseling Psychology. She also serves as Executive Director of the Project to End Human Trafficking.

Professor Louise Shelley, George Mason University: Professor of Public Policy and Director of the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center, her expertise in transnational crime and corruption includes money laundering and illicit financial flows, human smuggling and trafficking and national security issues.

Dr. Denise Brennan, Georgetown University: Associate Professor of Anthropology, her research focuses on urgent human rights concerns as trafficking, women’s poverty, and migrant labor exploitation.

Dr. Richard Estes, University of Pennsylvania: Professor of Social Work and Director of the School's International Programs, he also is a specialist on issues related to social and economic development, poverty, and the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

Schools with specific research centers on trafficking:

Johns Hopkins
University of Denver

Another way to find schools and scholars in the field is to do your homework:
  • Pay attention to the authors of reports or articles you read about trafficking. See if the author teaches at any graduate programs or works frequently with one university.
  • Look to see if any academic departments or professors take part in local task forces or assist trafficking victim service providers.
  • Pay attention to names (authors or quoted experts) in books you read about trafficking. With which university is he/she affiliated?
For the next post, we will look at other considerations when trying to identify the right school to match your research interests in human trafficking.


  1. thank thank thank you so much for this! i'm graduating next spring with a degree in sociology and then focused on getting my master's in social work. this is so helpful!

  2. Anonymous12:23 PM

    There is also Donna Hughes, professor in the Women's Studies Program
    at the University of Rhode Island. She is a leading international researcher on trafficking of women and children. She has completed research on the trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation in the United States, Russia, Ukraine, and Korea. She is frequently consulted by governments and non-governmental organizations on policy related to women's human rights, particularly on trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation.

  3. Anonymous12:31 PM

    There is also Dr. Liz Miller, Assistant Professor in Pediatrics at the U.C. Davis Children’s Hospital. She is a nationally and internationally recognized expert in teen dating abuse and gender-based violence. Trained in medical anthropology as well as Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, Dr. Miller’s research has included examination of risk for HIV and sex trafficking among women in Japan. She has participated on a United Nations Expert Workgroup to craft guidelines for health care providers on the care of trafficked persons.

  4. Anonymous12:32 PM

    Jay G. Silverman, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Society, Human Development and Health and Director of Violence Against Women Prevention Research at the Harvard School of Public Health. The sole focus of his research and practice is the study and prevention of gender-based violence against adolescent and adult women both in the U.S. and internationally. Dr. Silverman has published over 80 peer-reviewed manuscripts on the topics of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and sex trafficking, and the effects of these forms of violence on the health of women and their children.

  5. Anonymous2:07 PM

    Thank you! This was so helpful.

  6. Anonymous9:13 PM

    Thank you so much for all of these resources!! I am currently an undergrad senior and I am doing my thesis on sexually exploited children via trafficking, and this really does open the door for future research and current resources. Again, thanks so much for such a comprehensive list!

  7. This information is so helpful to me. I will be applying to graduate school very soon and have been struggling to find international policy programs at schools where human trafficking research is currently being conducted. Keep the information coming. Anyway would be helpful at this point!

  8. I actually didn't know there were any graduate programs on human trafficking. Seems like more schools should have them.

  9. Anonymous10:16 AM

    You can also look into Yale. They have Dr. Jhumka Gupta who is in the public health school. She does migration, trafficking, and violence in humanitarian emergencies.

  10. Caroline6:36 AM

    Did you end up writing the second part of this post? You mentioned that you might write multiple parts..