The Oak Institute for Human Rights was established in 1997 by a generous grant from the Oak Foundation. Each year, it hosts an Oak Human Rights Fellow to teach and conduct research while residing at the College. The Institute organizes lectures and other events centered around the fellow’s area of expertise.

The purpose of the fellowship is to offer an opportunity for one prominent practitioner in international human rights to take a sabbatical leave from front-line work to spend the fall semester (September-December) in residence at Colby. This provides the Fellow time for respite, reflection, research, and writing. While all human rights practitioners are eligible, we especially encourage applications from those who are currently or were recently involved in “on-the-ground” work at some level of personal risk. Following the period of the fellowship, the fellow is expected to return home to continue her/his human rights work.

The application announcement for the 2018 Oak Human Rights Fellowship will be posted in late August.


Oak Institute’s Mission Statement

The Oak Institute Human Rights champions the struggles for dignity, freedom and justice for people throughout the world. It provides the opportunity for a front-line human rights activist operating in difficult or dangerous circumstances to come to Colby College every fall for respite and reflection. Oak strives to educate the campus and extended community about the work being done by our Fellow.  It also encourages members of the community, especially students, to participate in research, internships and activism on behalf of human rights.


Jinyan Zeng: 2017 Oak Fellow

The Oak Institute is pleased to announce the selection of Jinyan Zeng from China as our 2017 Oak Fellow. Zeng, a filmmaker, blogger, activist, and scholar has spent more than a decade and a half fighting for people with HIV-AIDS, women facing discrimination, factory workers suffering from exploitation, a natural environment threatened by pollution, and political dissidents experiencing repression. Learn more >>>


Learn More

  • For more information on the 2017 Oak Fellowship, please see our Brochure
  • Learn about our 2017 Oak Fellow
  • Learn more about our previous Oak Fellows
  • Get to know our Staff
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