Valerie Dionne


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.


Anna Ackerman

Assistant Director

Anna 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. She liaises with the Oak Fellow and other Colby faculty to develop events related to the Fellow’s area of expertise and supports student programmatic initiatives focused on human rights issues.

Anna received her M.A. in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University, where she focused on international negotiation and gender analysis in International Studies, and holds B.A. in Gender and Women’s Studies from Bowdoin College. Upon graduating, she worked as Assistant to the Directors of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine. Subsequently she collaborated with a Feinstein International Center research team to understand the refugee integration process in her hometown, Augusta, Maine. Anna’s international experience includes serving as a gender consultant to the peace process in Myanmar with Athena Consortium, and completing a Multiculturalism and Human Rights Program in Morocco. Most recently, Anna’s organizational and people skills earned her the position of Internship Coordinator and Field Organizer in the Angus King for U.S. Senate Campaign.



Gail Carlson

Instructor, Oak Institute

Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Gail Carlson oversees and serves as co-instructor of the Oak GS111 Human Rights in Global Perspective course. In collaboration with the Oak Fellow, Gail leads a seminar that focuses on the year’s theme and highlights the fellow’s personal on-the-ground experiences. In addition, she 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.

Gail has been teaching in the Environmental Studies Program at Colby for ten years. Gail’s background is in biochemistry, and her courses focus on environmental public health and activism. She regularly incorporates civic engagement projects into her courses that focus on environmental policy-making in the state of Maine. Serving as an assistant director of the Goldfarb Center for Public and Civic Engagement, she oversees several of the center’s major initiatives, including the grant program and Cotter Debate Series.