Human security is an emerging paradigm that prioritizes the security of people, including their legal, political, physical, health, environmental, and economic rights and needs, to ensure sustainable human development and positive social change. The human security field of study attracts about 25% of Fletcher’s students each year. The Leir Institute offers these students a broad array of courses, as well as a Certificate in Human Security, which provides an in-depth analytic immersion in preparation for leadership roles in policymaking, research, front-line programming, or advocacy.  Additionally, we provide field research opportunities, mediation and facilitation training, and scholarship and internship support.



Workshop on System Thinking: This intensive two-day workshop introduces three phases of systems thinking: listening to and understanding the system, mapping the system, identifying opportunities for leverage, action, and continuous learning and adapting. Participants learned how to recognize recurring patterns in systems, identify causes and effects within a system, diagram the elements in a system and the connection between those elements, develop a plan for learning and adapting programming, and apply systems thinking principles from the workshop to real problems.

Defending Democracy: This very practical workshop brings together theory and practice of strategic nonviolence to evaluate the nature of nonviolent social change. Participants analyze historical and contemporary cases of civilian-led struggles, including movements for civil and political rights, struggles against dictatorships and authoritarian regimes, and movements for self-determination against foreign occupations. The training is led by the co-founders of the Serbian resistance movement OTPOR! Slobodan Djinovic and Srdja Popovic.

The Human Rights Project: The Fletcher School’s Human Rights Project (HRP) is a student-led organization whose mission is to elevate the importance of human rights issues in the international arena and to prepare students to fight for, analyze, and interact with human rights in many different sectors. The HRP does this through curating a series of public events, organizing a practicum, and facilitating the HRP Program, a student-initiated multi-part training and discussion series. The HRP practicum connects academia with practitioners in the fields of human rights, international law, conflict resolution, and related disciplines to conduct research and produce analyses on relevant topics. The practicum has partnered with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteur for Minority Rights, and the International Code of Conduct Association, among others.

Mediation Practicum: in cooperation with the International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution program at Fletcher, the Leir Insitute offers a non-credit mediation practicum at MWI. Students receive 32 hours of mediation training and then apprentice with experienced mediators in local small claims courts.

Managing Practicalities in the Field: in cooperation with IMAGe (the Initiative on Mass Atrocities and Genocide, a collaborative effort between Fletcher and the broader Tufts community), IHS co-sponsors a one-day workshop that explores topics related to security, ethics, well-being and broader engagement with local populations in crisis-affected and development contexts.  The workshop is designed around a series of examples of ethical challenges that arise in fieldwork, as drawn from the experiences of the faculty leaders (Professors Dyan Mazurana, Karen Jacobsen and Kim Wilson, each of whom has decades of experience in the field). Students explore several exercises designed to prompt critical reflect on their personal vulnerabilities and strengths, and to critically examine their identity and status as can be perceived by the communities they seek to work with.  The goal of the workshop is to improve students’ personal capacities to carry out research and establish careers in post-conflict and development contexts by sharpening their ethical and critical self-reflection preparedness.

Facilitation Training: The Leir Institute provides support to students interested in participating in the Soliya Connect Program, an online cross-cultural education program that has been implemented in over 100 universities in 28 countries across the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia, Europe and North America since 2003.  Participants receive 20 hours of facilitation, conflict resolution and technology training. Soliya facilitators are trained to engage participants in a productive, respectful dialogue that progresses from discussing culture and everyday life to delving into controversial topics.

Research/Teaching Assistant Opportunities: students may choose to work with Leir Institute faculty as a Research or Teaching Assistant.  Depending on the research project, scope of work, and available funds, Research Assistants also may join faculty in the field.


Corruption, Justice and Legitimacy Program

The Corruption, Justice and Legitimacy Program (CJL) is a research-to-practice initiative committed to improving the effectiveness of anti-corruption programming in contexts of endemic corruption.

The Journeys Project

The Journeys Project features the long-distance journeys of dispossessed people — refugees, migrants and asylum seekers who have traveled far to escape persecution and grinding poverty. We examine their stories though a financial lens to better understand the costs and strategies involved in their journeys as well as the economic approaches they use when putting down roots in new surroundings.

Waylaid in Tijuana

Waylaid in Tijuana explores how immigration policies adopted in Washington, DC reverberate just south of the border in Tijuana, Mexico. It features migration experts, government officials, and migrant advocates from the Tijuana/San Diego region who grapple with the consequences of these policies on a daily basis. But its main characters are the migrants themselves, whose stories are often heartbreaking while also being a testament to the human spirit.