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About Us


The new Human Rights Forum at Augsburg University brings students, global changemakers, and local activists together to explore innovative ways to take constructive action in our ongoing pursuit of human rights, both globally and domestically. The event seeks to educate, inspire, and empower young leaders by weaving together multiple themes and perspectives that are reflective of our team of partner institutions and community. The Forum draws on, and seeks to strengthen, the rich history and innovative educational work being done in the Upper Midwest as a center of progressive internationalism and the promotion of human rights.

The event spans two days, the first of which explores global issues and perspectives and is hosted by and developed in partnership with the Human Rights Foundation (HRF). HRF produces the Oslo Freedom Forum, which brings together human rights speakers and activists from all over the world, and has an impressive roster of speakers that focus on human rights abuses within authoritarian regimes. We look forward to bringing these new voices to the Twin Cities.

Separately, the programming on our second day will feature speakers and sessions exploring human rights issues such as racial justice, indigenous rights and environmental sustainability, with programming developed in partnership with Augsburg’s academic departments and centers, partner institutions, and sponsors.

Our programming is informed by the principles of nonviolence, dialogue, civic agency, and creative action. Nonviolence constitutes an active form of politics in opposition to the dynamics of injustice and violence. Dialogue provides the foundation for communication across lines of difference, an increasingly difficult task in the current polarized political landscape. Drawing on our thirty-year history of work with the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, and in keeping with the general mandate of higher education to foster healthy and vigorous debate and discussion, we see respectful dialogue across lines of difference as means for making meaningful and lasting social change.

Staff and Leadership

Bettine Hoff Hermanson, Managing Director

Bettine Hoff Hermanson, Managing Director of the Human Rights Forum and Norway Hub, holds over 18 years of experience leading diverse non-profit organizations, groups, educators and individuals to create successful programs, collaborations and partnerships from inception to implementation. Work content emphasizes global issues and international connections, developing (inter)cultural awareness and understanding among participants while creating dynamic partnerships and dialogue opportunities that strive for inclusion. Recent positions entail directing and implementing small-scale events (seminars/lectures) to large-scale global conferences focusing on peacemaking and human rights efforts.

As a native Norwegian, Hoff Hermanson started her education in Norway at the University of Oslo and later transferred to St. Olaf College, Minnesota, where she received her undergraduate degree in Sociology. She continued her education in Norway, and received a degree in Social Work at Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences (HiOA).

Joe Underhill, Program Director

Prof. Underhill has taught courses in political science, environmental studies, and international relations, and helped create the Peace and Global Studies, Environmental Studies, Model UN, and River Semester Programs at Augsburg.  As the Batalden Faculty Scholar in Applied Ethics (2010-12), Underhill worked with Egyptian and Somali youth in the Twin Cities on projects relating to civic engagement and empowerment.  He has led study-abroad courses in New Zealand, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Egypt, and Tanzania as well as a semester-long study-away course down the Mississippi River.  During his twenty years at Augsburg he was frequently involved with the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, serving as Program Director in 2017-18. In 2016 Underhill was recognized with the Distinguished Contributions Award in Teaching at Augsburg.  He is the author of Death and the Statesman: The Culture and Psychology of U.S. Leaders during War, and numerous articles and papers related to international peace and security, experiential pedagogy, and environmental politics, and is a frequent presenter at local and national conferences.

Contact the Human Rights Forum


phone: +1.612.330.1378


Our offices are located at Augsburg University.

Augsburg University
2211 Riverside Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55454