A Spotlight on GHRUP Course Director Prof. Joyce Apsel

27 Feb 2023

Preparing the Next Generation of Informed Citizens and Scholars Worldwide 


On the occasion of the Zoryan Institute’s 40th Anniversary, once a month we will be highlighting one of our ZI Heroes. Not only have these individuals made invaluable contributions to the Institute and its mission, but they have also left their mark on the field of Genocide and Human Rights Studies.

Prof. Apsel presenting at a 2015 conference co-organized by the Zoryan Institute, entitled Starvation as a Political Tool from the Nineteenth to the Twenty-First Century

February 27, 2023: The Zoryan Institute proudly highlights  Prof. Joyce Apsel, Course Director of the Genocide and Human Rights University Program (GHRUP), and member of the Institute’s Academic Board of Directors. Prof. Apsel has demonstrated unwavering leadership and support for the Institute’s work, and ongoing dedication to educating the next generation of Genocide and Human Rights Studies scholars.
Prof. Joyce Apsel, Professor of Humanities in Liberal Studies, at New York University, and President of the Institute for Study of Genocide, is a deeply compassionate, generous, and committed scholar and educator who is highly regarded in the field of Genocide and Human Rights Studies for her tremendously engaging and charismatic approach to teaching about the complex and emotional issues pertaining to genocide and human rights. Speaking to Joyce’s unique gift as an educator and role model for fellow scholars and professors, Prof. Doris Bergen, Chancellor Rose and Ray Wolfe Professor of Holocaust Studies in the History Department at University of Toronto, expressed,

“As a mentor, scholar, and teacher in the field of Genocide Studies, Joyce Apsel is in a league of her own. She brings a rare and wonderful combination of brilliance, erudition, and empathy to everything she does… Professor Apsel’s depth of knowledge across an incredible array of topics and disciplines provides the [GHRUP] seminar with a firm foundation, and her intellectual curiosity, kindness, and keen ability to listen make each of us, whether students or instructors, feel heard and appreciated.”

Prof. Apsel was introduced to the  Zoryan Institute and added to the lineup of GHRUP faculty in 2004, when it was decided to add the unit, “Teaching about Genocide” to the program. Prof. Apsel had taught widely on genocide from a multidisciplinary, comparative perspective at a variety of institutions, which suited the Zoryan Institute’s mission for the program perfectly.

Prof. Apsel teaching during the 2017 GHRUP

Prof. Apsel became Course Director of the program in 2012. Speaking to her leadership, Prof. Elisa von Joeden-Forgey, Associate Professor in the Department of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Keene State College, and a fellow faculty member of the GHRUP, stated:

“Joyce is a masterful educator, engaging students with the same open-mindedness, warmth, and incisive critique that she applies to the scholars and scholarship in our field. She is also an accomplished scholar, a powerful leader, and a peacemaker with a deep personal commitment to human rights and social justice. Joyce practices what she preaches and has been a role model for all of us.” 

GHRUP Graduating Class Photo with Prof. Roger Smith, Former Program Director and Prof. Joyce Apsel, Course Director

In addition to the support and guidance that Prof. Apsel offers during the program, she also opens herself for mentorship outside of the classroom, offering students invaluable guidance on their own studies and research, and providing inspiration for new avenues of inquiry and scholastic engagement. In many cases, Prof. Apsel stays in touch with graduates of the program, continuing to offer mentorship and engaging them in the field by inviting them to guest lecture in her classes, participate in webinars, or even return to the GHRUP as faculty members. Speaking to the impact Joyce’s teaching and mentorship has them, GHRUP graduates Lauren Grant and Emily Tedards commented:

Reflecting on his many years of collaborating with Dr. Apsel, Executive Director George Shirinian commented the following:

“Joyce Apsel  is so full of good ideas, so concerned about the excellence of the GHRUP, so caring of others, and so cooperative…The warm and appreciative remarks from the students at the end of each GHRUP, year after year, prove that this is not just my opinion.” 

Prof. Apsel providing opportunities for learning and mentorship beyond the classroom

Prof. Apsel providing opportunities for learning and mentorship beyond the classroom

The GHRUP and the field of genocide studies more broadly wouldn’t be the same without the invaluable contributions of Prof. Joyce Apsel. She is truly a ZI Hero, and the Zoryan Institute feels honored to be working closely with her as we plan GHRUP 2023!

Prof. Apsel (center), with Prof. Doris Bergen (left), and George Shirinian (right)

Zoryan Institute, a non-profit organization, serves the cause of scholarship and public awareness relating to issues of universal human rights, genocide, and diaspora-homeland relations. This is done through the systematic continued efforts of scholars and specialists using comparative and multidisciplinary approach and in accordance with the highest academic standards.