As a response to the more than 29.8 million people worldwide trapped in modern-day slavery as victims of human trafficking, The University of Toledo Board of Trustees voted in November to establish the Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute.
A ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony will take place Tuesday, April 28, at 2 p.m. in Health and Human Services Building Room 2638.
Scheduled speakers for the event include John Carey, chancellor for the Ohio Board of Regents; State Rep. Teresa Fedor; Dr. Nagi Naganathan, UT interim president; and Dr. Celia Williamson, UT professor of social work, institute director and an international expert in the fight against human trafficking.
“This institute will increase UT’s prominence as an international leader in the effort against human trafficking,” Naganathan said. “We are proud to have someone of Dr. Williamson’s caliber as an expert in this area at UT, and this initiative will further highlight her work.”
The mission of the institute is to respond to human trafficking and social justice through teaching, research and service. Programs will be established to help victims become survivors and for survivors to become “thrivers,” individuals who have completed the healing process and established stable and productive lives.
“This institute will build upon and extend the efforts of Dr. Celia Williamson to publicly address and help alleviate the evils of human trafficking regionally, nationally and globally through a multi-faceted blend of teaching, impactful research and targeted community partnering,” said Dr. Thomas Gutteridge, dean of the College of Social Justice and Human Service. “My thanks also to everyone involved in this initiative for their commitment to helping the institute become a major force in further reducing human trafficking and its impact upon those enslaved by this system.”
One of the key areas of focus for the institute will be educating practitioners to serve on the front lines of efforts to combat human trafficking and assist victims. Educational activities will focus on a wide range of professions, including social work, criminal justice, law, medicine, psychology, education, counseling and public health.
“I applaud The University of Toledo for providing the leadership necessary to establish the Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute, which will provide research, education and outreach to combat this issue,” Carey said. “I look forward to having all of Ohio’s colleges and universities collaborate with the Institute to further strengthen our efforts across the state in the fight against human trafficking.”
“I’m honored to be part of the formal dedication of The University of Toledo’s Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute,” Fedor said. “UT’s Human Trafficking Institute will build on the landmark research and prestigious work of UT Professor Celia Williamson, and it will have a profound impact, not just locally, but worldwide. As the only one of its kind, the work of this institute will go a long way toward rescuing and restoring victims, as well as aiding in the prosecution of the criminals.”
After receiving a Jefferson Award earlier this year for her work, Williamson addressed the broad impact that human trafficking has: “Human trafficking affects more than just the victims, it affects the whole community.”
The institute also will work to advance the body of knowledge on human trafficking issues and track effective solutions to these problems.