Bridging the Worlds of International Affairs, Law, and the Academic Experience

The College of Law actively creates opportunities to build bridges between the worlds of international affairs, law, and the academic experience for OU law students by (1) participating in the U.S. Department of State's Diplomacy Lab program; (2) hosting innovative conferences linked to the U.S. Government’s foreign policy decision-making process; and (3) hosting important international law and affairs speakers.

What is Diplomacy Lab?

Diplomacy Lab is a State Department program that allows students and faculty members to research complex global challenges facing the State Department and to submit the results of their research to the Department.  This allows the Department to course-source long term foreign policy questions and allows students the opportunity to work on real world questions that affect U.S. foreign policy formulation and to interact with Department officials during the course of their research.  The College of Law has participated actively in the Diplomacy Lab program and also serves as the Secretariat for administering the program with respect to other universities.   OU Law students participated in a Town Hall meeting at the State Department with the Secretary of State at the launch event for Diplomacy Lab as well as in Diplomacy Lab courses at the College of Law.  OU Law students have also participated in celebrations of the OU-State Department partnership with respect to Diplomacy Lab.  For additional background on the Diplomacy Lab program, see

What conferences has the College of Law hosted?

In order to give our students unique insights into the foreign policy making process, the College of Law has prioritized hosting innovative international law conferences linked to influencing the U.S. Government’s foreign policy decisions. 

In 2014, the College of Law hosted consultations among U.S. government officials, federally recognized tribes, and members of civil society to discuss the implementation by the United States of its international human rights obligations and commitments.   The consultations were held in anticipation of the second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the U.S. human rights record at the United Nations in Geneva, which occurred in 2015.  The consultations included twelve U.S. government officials representing a variety of federal agencies, including the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior, as well as tribal representatives and members of civil society groups that promote the rights of indigenous peoples.  OU students were among those making presentations to U.S. government officials about how to improve the situation of indigenous peoples in the United States.  In addition, OU students were able to meet with the participants of this meeting during lunch and dinner events.  More information about the event can be found here at

In 2015, The University of Oklahoma College of Law hosted a dialogue on the U.S. Government National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct April 2 in the Dick Bell Courtroom. The College of Law is one of only four colleges nationwide to host such consultations.

Dean Joe Harroz welcomes participants and observers to the Dialogue on Responsible Business Conduct
Dean Joe Harroz welcomes participants and observers to the Dialogue on Responsible Business Conduct

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Scott Busby gives opening remarks to launch the dialogue.In September, President Barack Obama announced plans to develop a National Action Plan (NAP) to promote responsible business conduct by U.S. companies operating overseas, consistent with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Expanding U.S. efforts to promote responsible business conduct is intended to cement the brand of U.S. businesses as reliable and accountable partners internationally and promote respect for human rights.

The meeting hosted by OU Law was part of a series of open dialogues during which stakeholders exchanged ideas on the NAP process and content. Seven officials from the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the U.S. Agency for International Development attended the meeting as well as indigenous peoples representatives, civil society representatives, and representatives from business. Members of the OU community attended including faculty and students, as well as alumni, from the College of Law, College of Business, College of International Studies, and College of Earth and Energy.  

Students Megan Anderson, Stacey Lehne, and Kelbie Kennedy propose recommendations for inclusion in the NAP.
Students from Professor Evelyn Aswad’s International Business and Human Rights class produced an official summary of the event for the State Department.  Some students also delivered presentations during the meeting about what should appear in the NAP.  Students had lunch with the event participants and met again with some of them during smaller group discussions the next day.

“Given OU Law’s core strengths in the areas of indigenous peoples law, energy law, and international human rights, our faculty and students have a strong interest in these topics. We are honored to host these consultations and are proud we have the background and knowledge needed to contribute to this important discussion,” said Dean Joe Harroz.  

Right: Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Scott Busby gives opening remarks to launch the dialogue; Left: Students Megan Anderson, Stacey Lehne, and Kelbie Kennedy propose recommendations for inclusion in the NAP.





What distinguished speakers have come to the OU College of Law?

Below is a sampling of speakers who have recently visited the OU College of Law.

Harold Koh discusses "smart power" during a visit to OU LawIn the Fall of 2013, President Obama’s chief international law attorney, Harold Hungjo Koh, came to speak to OU students several months after resigning his post.  He reflected on the role of international law in U.S. foreign policy and national security matters in a speech to the entire student body.  He also spoke to International Law Foundations and Human Rights Law students in small group settings.

In the Spring of 2014, the United Nations Assistant Secretary General for Legal Affairs, Steve Mathias, spoke to OU law students about hot issues facing the United Nations at a breakfast hosted by the International Law Society.  He also spoke in a small group setting to students enrolled in the Arab Spring and Legal Reform seminar as well as the Venice Commission: Democracy Through Law course.
Right: Harold Koh speaks to OU students.

OILS Breakfast
UN Assistant Secretary General for Legal Affairs, Steve Mathias, meets with OU International Law Society.

In the fall of 2015, Kristin McGeeney, the Senior Legal Adviser for the Middle East and North Africa at the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, as well as Dan Mahanty, the U.S. State Department’s director of the Office of Security and Human Rights in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) and former head of the Office of Middle East affairs in DRL.  OILS greeted them with a welcome reception at Blackbird upon their arrival.  The next day Ms. McGeeney met with students for breakfast and dinner to discuss her experiences using international law to promote freedom of assembly and expression in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia while Mr. Mahanty discussed the integration of human rights considerations in U.S. government security policies throughout the world.  Professor Joshua Landis, Middle East expert from the OU College of International Studies, also participated in the dinner session.  In addition, OILS hosted an international law and affairs “speed mentoring” luncheon in which students asked career-related questions in small group meetings with each of the mentors, Ms. McGeeney, Mr. Mahanty, and Professor Aswad. 

OILS Breakfast

Kristen McGeeney meets with OU Law students.

In April 2015, the International Law Society and Professor Aswad hosted a breakfast  and panel discussion with leading experts in the field of business and human rights.  They heard the reflections of Arvind Ganesan (Oklahoma Native and Director of Human Rights Watch’s Business and Human Rights Program in Washington DC), Amy Lehr (an Associate in Foley Hoag’s unique Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practice in Washington D.C.), and Mark Wielga (Director of Nomogaia, a non-profit think-tank devoted to business and human rights in Colorado).   The students in Professor Aswad’s International Business & Human Rights course engaged in a Q&A session with the speakers about their research projects.  After the session, the Office of Career Services hosted a Lunch & Learn session with Lee Caplan, a partner and head of the Corporate Social Responsibility Practice Group in the Washington D.C. law office of Arendt Fox.