IPJ Director Receives Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award

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On Saturday, October 24, Dee Aker, director of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice (IPJ) at the University of San Diego, will be honored by the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) San Diego chapter with its prestigious Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award. The event, which celebrates the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, will be held in Balboa Park to commemorate the UN anniversary as well as to acknowledge the San Diego chapter’s 69th year.

Life Changing Work at USD

For the past 17 years, Aker (pictured, middle) has been active on the USD campus. In 1998, she brought the WorldLink program to USD, an initiative which involves connecting youth with global affairs. Shortly thereafter, Aker was a part of the team that launched the IPJ and then the Kroc School of Peace Studies (KSPS). While at USD, her work has also included a number of strategic projects, among them the Nepal Peacebuilding Initiative, which has provided faculty and staff the opportunity to engage in peacebuilding activities in the region for the past 13 years.

Aker also helped launch the Women PeaceMakers Program, which, in 2011, garnered USD a Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization. Aker became director of the IPJ in September 2014 and has continued to impact the USD community with her trailblazing approach to holistic community peacebuilding.

A Well-Deserved Honor

Aker, who is a psychological anthropologist and conflict resolution professional, holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology and biology from Southwest Missouri University, a master’s degree in international relations from Ohio University, and a doctorate in anthropology and psychology from The Union Institute and University.

The Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award, which has been awarded for the past 15 years, recognizes the work recipients have done in the human rights field. Aker, who has been a strong proponent of community-based peacebuilding, is being honored for her commitment to peace and education throughout the world.

“For fifteen years, our organization presents annually the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award to individuals from the community. We are extremely excited to recognize Dr. Dee Aker, a long term friend of our organization with this prestigious award,” said Bettina Hausmann, President and CEO of the UNA-USA San Diego chapter.

“Her outstanding life-long work and leadership to advance peace, education, development and human rights is truly inspirational. It is our distinct pleasure to have Ford Roosevelt, grandson of President Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, present the Human Rights award to such a deserving individual.”

Outstanding Life-Long Work

At the event, Aker will be joined by fellow guests Ford Roosevelt, Stephen O’Dowd, director of the Office of Economic and Development Affairs for the U.S. State Department, and Chris Whatley, president of the UN Association of the United States of America.

Since 1946, the UNA-USA San Diego chapter has commemorated the anniversary of the formation of the UN. It serves as an ambassador for the San Diego community, while addressing global issues from a local perspective. Headquartered in Balboa Park at the House of Hospitality, the San Diego chapter has a special connection to the Roosevelt family, with the 1953 ceremonial opening attended by Eleanor Roosevelt. To learn more about the UNA-USA San Diego chapter, visit their website:

— Allyson Meyer '16