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.



One thought on “Faculty Friday: Dana Zartner

  1. Christine Yeh

    Love this faculty profile on Professor Dana Zartner. It is such a wonderful portrayal of your vision, advocacy, and life outside of academia. I love your focus on healthy environments and human rights issues. A great model for students! Thanks for sharing.


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