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.

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.

Bassam Khabieh: 2018 Oak Fellow

Bassam Khabieh, a Syrian photojournalist, has been named the 2018 Oak Human Rights Fellow at Colby.  Khabieh’s beautiful but searing work bridges Oak’s 2017 theme, “Film, Photography, and Human Rights,” and its 2018 theme, “War and Human Rights”.

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2019 Oak Human Rights Fellowship Call for Applications

The Oak Institute for Human Rights at Colby College is pleased to issue this call for nominations for the 2019 Oak Fellowship.  Our theme is water rights.  We are looking for a human rights activist who is committed to exposing and/or addressing human rights violations or abuses in relation to water.  These might include, for example: the privatization of water for profit; the destruction, contamination, and pollution of water resources; the denial of sanitation infrastructure, supporting the spread of disease; environmental racism; and the legal or illegal violation of communities’ water sovereignty.  Applications are due in full no later than November 30, 2018.

Learn More

  • For more information on the 2019 Oak Fellowship, please see our Brochure
  • Learn more about our previous Oak Fellows
  • Get to know our Staff
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