The SMU Human Rights Education Program was created through a generous donation from the Embrey Family Foundation. During the December holiday in 2005, Lauren Embrey and her two sons, Lindsay and Jeffrey, joined Professor Rick Halperin on a human rights journey to Poland--a 10-day tour of Holocaust sites. After the trip, Lauren said she realized that human rights is not something students are taught enough about in school. She and her sister, Gayle, began talking with SMU about a way to fund human rights education for students and the SMU community in general.
In the spring of 2006, Lauren, Gayle and the Embrey Family Foundation generously donated one million dollars to create the SMU Human Rights Education Program. With that gift, SMU became one of only twelve universities nationwide, and the only university in the South, to offer such a program.
Dedman College began offering a minor in human rights in 2007; that minor has over 175 students currently enrolled, and has graduated 58 students as of May 2010. In addition, the Program has sponsored numerous conferences on topics such as human trafficking, the genocide in Darfur, violence against women, the Holocaust, Stonewall and LGBT issues, and the death penalty. The Program has also sponsored the development of eight new courses in human rights throughout the University, along with travel to sites of recent human rights abuses in such places as Argentina, Rwanda, South Africa, and Japan, and to specific Holocaust-related sites across Europe including Germany, Poland, and Latvia.
In spring 2010, the Program was renamed the Embrey Human Rights Program in honor of the Embrey Family and in gratitude for the Foundation's renewal of its founding gift to fund human rights education at SMU through May 2012.