Valerie Dionne

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Valerie M. Dionne is an associate professor of French at Colby College. She received her PhD from Princeton and also participated in a seminar on “Torture and Dignity” with Jay Bernstein at Cornell University’s Summer School of Theory. Her first monograph, Montaigne, écrivain de la conciliation (Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2014) explores the great French thinker’s advocacy for political conciliation during the Wars of Religion. She has also co-edited a volume, “Revelations of Character”: Ethos, Rhetoric and Moral Philosophy in Montaigne, with C. Noirot (Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007). She is the author of several articles on the theme of Justice, Law, and Tolerance, including an essay co-written with Yannik Büchi ’17 on the rights of intersex people in France from antiquity to the present. As an historian of ideas, she teaches a course on the Birth of Human Rights during the French Revolution, and a course on French Intellectuals and Social Justice.


Amya Bhalla

Assistant Director
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Amya is responsible for providing strategic direction and operational support for the Institute, including marketing the Oak Fellow program to an international audience, coordinating the application review process of Oak candidates, and serving as the primary contact and support person for the Oak Fellow before and while in residence at Colby. They coordinate with the Oak Fellow and other Colby faculty to develop events related to the Fellow’s area of expertise and support student programming initiatives focused on human rights.

Amya received their B.A. in Anthropology with a Minor in Environmental Studies from Colby College in Maine. While at Colby, Amya worked as the editor-in-chief of the monthly political print magazine, Outside Colby, co-chair of the Oak Student Committee, anthropology research assistant, and creative director of WMHB radio station, along with being an active member of many Pugh Center clubs.


Chris Myers Asch 

Instructor, Oak Institute
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Research Associate and JanPlan Instructor Chris Myers Asch serves as co-instructor of the Oak GS111 Human Rights in Global Perspective course. In collaboration with the Oak Fellow, Chris leads a seminar that focuses on the year’s theme and highlights the fellow’s personal on-the-ground experiences. In addition, he facilitates the design and implementation of civic engagement projects to further the work of the Oak Fellow and raise public awareness about the year’s human rights issue.

Chris is the co-founder and executive director of the Capital Area New Mainers Project based in Augusta, ME. CANMP is a cross-cultural organization that welcomes immigrants and refugees and works to create a thriving, integrated, multicultural community in central Maine.

Chris received his B.A. in Public Policy Studies from Duke University and then an M.A and a Ph.D. in American History from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is author of Chocolate City: A History of Race and Democracy in the Nation’s Capital, with George Derek Musgrove (University of North Carolina Press, 2017).