Fionnuala Ni Aolain

Regents Professor

Law School, 2017

Regents Professor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin is internationally renowned in the field of international and human rights law, and is considered one of the world’s leading scholars on the topics of conflict resolution and gender-based violence in conflict. Her research addresses the application of national security law to regulating terrorism, resolving accountability and political disputes in post-conflict societies, peacebuilding, and transitional justice. Her contributions to the feminist analysis of international law are considered groundbreaking. The disciplines of law, political science and public policy have all been shaped by Ní Aoláin’s contributions.

Ní Aoláin has held several top academic administrative posts since joining the U of M faculty in 2004, including Robina Chair in Law, Public Policy and Society, faculty director of the Human Rights Center, associate dean of the Law School, and co-director of the University of Ulster’s Transitional Justice Institute (TJI) in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She is also an affiliated faculty member in the Department of Political Science in the College of Liberal Arts.

Since the beginning of her academic career, Ní Aoláin has raised nearly $21 million in individual and institutional research funding. Most recently, she was co-PI for the prestigious Newton Fellowship grant (2017), and co-I for the ESRC Strategic Network grant (2016), which concerns addressing the relationship between development and transitional justice research in Colombia, Sri Lanka, Uganda, and Syria.

Ní Aoláin has an outstanding publication record, including eight books, over 79 articles and essays, and numerous policy reports and amicus briefs. Her first book, The Politics of Force, was based on research that identified patterns in the use of force by state agents during the 30-year conflict in Northern Ireland. It received significant attention and is said to have been crucial to framing accountability debates that followed through the 1990s and has been considered instrumental to the peace process in Northern Ireland. Since 2010, she has served as chair of the Women’s Rights Program of the Open Society Foundation, which has distributed approximately $8 million annually to advance women’s rights around the world.

Described as an exceptional teacher and communicator, Ní Aoláin is considered to be a nurturing and inspirational teacher, particularly to the students in the fields of human rights and international law. One of her former students wrote, “I owe my success in law school and any that will come in my professional life to Professor Ní Aoláin’s unwavering loyalty to and belief in me. She embodies what I believe the practice of law is about: compassion, rigor, intentionality, and humility.”

Ní Aoláin’s service in and outside of the University is exceptional. She has made significant contributions to the Law School and to the University. Her service outside of the University is far reaching and inspiring. She has given advice and acted as a consultant to numerous countries, non-governmental organizations, and international organizations.

She is the recipient of several academic awards, including a Fulbright scholarship (1993); a Harvard Law School Edward A. Smith Visiting Fellow Award (1993); the Alon Prize, which is a notable prize of international peer distinction (1998-2001); and the British Academy Newton Advanced Fellowship (2017).

Regents Professor Ní Aoláin’s career is exemplary, and we are fortunate to have her as part of our intellectual community.

Biographies are as-of time of award presentation.