Faculty Friday: Dana Zartner

Every Friday, the International Studies Department will profile one of our amazing faculty members so you can get to know them better and see all the amazing work our faculty do!

Faculty Friday Profile: Dana Zartner

Dana - UN

Dana Zartner is an Associate Professor in the International Studies Department and an Adjunct Professor in the School of Law at the University of San Francisco. Professor Zartner grew up in Dayton, Minnesota (about an hour north of Minneapolis) and went to Hamline University in St. Paul where she received a BA in International Relations with a minor in French. After receiving a law degree from Boston University, Professor Zartner worked as an immigration attorney in Northern California, specializing in green card applications for ‘Individuals of Extraordinary Ability’ and ‘Outstanding Professors and Researchers’ and asylum cases. After five years as an attorney, she decided to return to academia and received a Ph.D. in Political Science from UC Davis.


Professor Zartner specializes in international and comparative law, with a focus on environmental protections and human rights. Her primary interest lies in understanding how we can better implement positive international human rights laws and environmental protections at the domestic level. Using an interdisciplinary approach that considers both legal cultures and legal institutions within states, Professor Zartner’s first book Courts, Codes, and Custom: Legal Tradition and State Policy Toward International Human Rights and Environmental Law (Oxford University Press, 2014) considers ten different countries across five different legal traditions (common law, civil law, Islamic law, East Asian law, and mixed traditions) to understand why some states are better at internalizing international law than others. She has also done work on the role of legal culture in shaping transitional justice in the aftermath of crises, and the institutional factors that best facilitate treaty compliance in the case of the Convention Against Torture.

Professor Zartner’s current research focuses more on the environment and the relationship between a healthy environment and the achievement of other human rights. She is fascinated by the question of how we can use indigenous, religious, and cultural understandings of the natural world as important in its own right to overcome current ideas that nature is simply a commodity to create better law and policy that protects both the environment and human rights. She was very inspired by a trip to Cambodia this past summer and meeting a forest-saving monk who has created a community forest in the middle of massive deforestation and blesses trees to ensure they are protected.

Cambodia Monk

A proponent of the benefits of working through both local and global institutions, Professor Zartner has attended, as an NGO delegate, a number of United Nations meetings, including the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Geneva in 2015 and the Committee on the Status of Women in New York in 2016. While the UN system has its problems and works slowly, she believes that the opportunities afforded global civil society in attending these meetings, having the opportunity to connect with other groups to share ideas and resources, and interact with State delegates, is a vitally important component of promoting and protecting human rights, environmental rights, and indigenous rights. Her hope for the future is to be able to take USF students along on these trips.

In her free time, Professor Zartner plays golf badly and has learned four notes on her guitar. She thinks San Francisco is the best place in the world (along with Italy and New Zealand, well … and now Cambodia) and loves the combination of big city and big nature that we have here. A lover of wine and good food, particularly Italian cuisine, she makes very authentic lasagna and will on occasion host department parties at her house. She sort-of speaks Italian, largely learning from watching US comedies dubbed into Italian and Italian game shows. She thinks animals are awesome and has a cat named Viggio who likes to eat asparagus, bell pepper, and blueberries. She also loves The Walking Dead, all things Middle Earth, and the Tenth Doctor.



Welcome to the 2016-2017 Academic Year! A Message from the Chair

Welcome to the 2016-2017 academic year! It is hard to believe the summer has flown by and it is time for classes to begin again. The faculty and staff of the International Studies Department are delighted to welcome back our returning undergraduate and graduate students! We are also so thrilled to welcome to the International Studies family over 60 new undergraduate majors and 38 new graduate students. Together you are part of a vibrant community of approximately 300 students, faculty, and staff that call International Studies at the University of San Francisco (ISatUSFCA) home.

Global PotluckInternational Studies Global Potluck Dinner, Spring 2016

I am often asked by students, parents, and employers what benefits there are to an undergraduate or graduate degree in International Studies. There are many answers I can give to this question, but the one I want to mention today concerns the big picture reality of the world we live in and why a degree in IS is essential to address these problems.

Anyone paying attention to the news over the summer can probably identify a number of global issues that need new solutions, concrete action, and dedicated advocates. So many events occurred across the globe this summer that provide a clear demonstration of why an interdisciplinary, multi-method, knowledge and skills-based education in International Studies from the USF is an excellent choice. Just some of these include: the ongoing war in Syria and the corresponding refugee crisis; the attempted coup in Turkey and the crackdown on the freedom of expression and due process rights; the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom to pull the country out of the European Union; the continued dispute over the islands in the South China Sea; the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio and the spread of the Zika virus; the United Nations admitting responsibility in the cholera outbreak in Haiti; and the United States Presidential elections.

Each of these events contains multiple facets touching on issues of development, human rights, environmental justice, culture and identity, power dynamics, international law and organizations, the global-local connection, the global economic system, and relationships between a variety of state and non-state actors. Tackling any of these issues from the perspective of a single disciplinary lens, while able to provide some valuable insight, is not enough. The issues facing us today are complex and solutions are going to come from taking a broad perspective that encompasses many different fields and many different opportunities.

The degree programs in International Studies at USF do just that. As an interdisciplinary department, both our undergraduate and graduate programs draw on faculty expertise across disciplines so students are exposed to the very variety of approaches to issues that is needed in our complex world. In the department, we have faculty with expertise in political science, international and comparative law, cultural anthropology, indigenous rights issues, refugee issues, art history, globalization, colonialism, political and diplomatic history, food security and sustainability, environmental studies, mega events and infrastructures, and conflict resolution. This cross-disciplinary variety means that students in our program are exposed to different perspectives that provide a greater breadth and depth of expertise to address those issues that matter most to them. As you begin your studies this fall, you will start to see the benefits of these different approaches to addressing global crises.

In addition to the interdisciplinary approach to tackling global issues, we are continually working to provide our students with the skills they needs to hit the ground running in their chosen profession after graduating from USF. The fall semester is full events designed to provide students with the resources and skills they need to succeed including two internship and career workshops, a brown-bag lunch on applying to graduate school and law school, and talk by a non-profit leader on careers in NGOs. For Spring 2017 we are offering a new 2 unit course open to both graduate and undergraduate students on Human Rights Advocacy Skills designed specifically to provide students with skills such as grant writing, advocacy plans, and writing OpEds.

Tracy HardingTracy Harding, Regional Director, Office of Foreign Missions, U.S. Department of State speaks to students about careers in diplomacy and the Peace Corps, February 2016

It won’t be all work though! We have lots of fun events planned for the fall as well to give you a chance to engage with your fellow IS folks in a more relaxed setting. Our first department social will take place on September 8 in the Getty Lounge. Come meet all the new students and reconnect with old friends! On September 23 and October 7 join us to cheer on fellow International Studies students playing for USF men’s soccer and women’s volleyball. We are also planning events to engage with International Studies alumni, a writing day to help you prepare for finals, and talks by a diverse array of USF faculty and visiting lecturers.

alumni event - CopyAlumni Mixer at Barrelhead Brewhouse, September 2015

We have an exciting year planned and we hope you are looking forward to it as much as we are! We know there are many, many serious problems around the world and sometimes it can be hard to maintain the perspective and optimism needed to address them. Our goal as International Studies faculty and staff is to provide you with the knowledge and the tools you need to make positive change in the world, work for social justice, and live your best life as a global citizen. We look forward to going on this journey with you this year!

Professor Dana Zartner,  Chair, International Studies Department