Human Rights Defender Student Award

The Human Rights Defender Travel Award provides a $500 travel scholarship each year for a student to attend the annual meetings of the Society. The competition for the Human Rights Defender Travel Award will be held in December, and will be presented at the Annual Meeting. The results of the competition will be announced in February.

The Human Rights Defender Award was made possible by a generous contribution from Michael Cavendish, a Sustaining Member of the Society who is a practicing attorney in Florida and a strong advocate of human rights. As a graduate student, he was first exposed to the link between applied anthropology and disciplines like law, journalism and social work.


To be eligible for the Award, a student must pre-register for the Annual Meeting and submit an abstract for a paper or poster presentation. Awardees are required to provide SfAA with a bio, picture, and travel receipts to receive payment.


To apply, an eligible student member should prepare a brief (one-page) statement which describes their interest in human rights, and the conjunction of this topic to their applied research interests. The statement may include a description of prior and/or current human rights advocacy activities in which the student has engaged. The written statement (plus the pre-registration and abstract) must be received in the SfAA Office by January 3.

Applicants should email their statement to

Judgement Process

The Society will receive and review the applications for this Award with the same logistical process that is used for the other student travel awards (Del Jones, Edward Spicer and Beatrice Medicine). An established committee, appointed by the President, will review and judge the one-page statements as well as the abstract that was submitted for the Program. In assessing the statements, Committee members will frame their evaluation with the following questions:

  • Does the statement document the participation of the applicant in any prior activities, which advocate human rights?

  • Does the statement reflect careful thinking about the linkage between human rights and applied social sciences?

  • Does the statement explore, and to what degree, the assertion that the study of human rights holds the potential to enhance professional development in the social sciences?

  • Is the abstract that the applicant submitted for the program connected in any way with human rights?

In preparing the statement, applicants should keep in mind the vision of Mr. Cavendish in establishing this Award:

United Nations Resolution 53/144 states that human rights defenders are vital everywhere and that anyone can be a human rights defender…. The vision (for this award) is that each year group of students are exposed to the potential for their enhanced professional development through the study of human rights… and that the award name as it circulates through the proceedings of the Society will serve as a gentle but permanent advertisement for the role of applied anthropology in the advancement of human rights.

Previous Winners