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“It always seems impossible until it's done.”

Nelson Mandela, South African civil rights activist


The Oak Institute for Human Rights champions the struggles for dignity, freedom, and justice of people throughout the world. Every fall, we invite a front-line human rights activist operating in difficult or dangerous circumstances to come to Colby for respite and reflection as the Oak Human Rights Fellow. Through public lectures, classes, and other events, we educate the campus and extended community about the work being done by our Fellow. Beyond the Oak Human Rights Fellowship, we are committed to engaging students and community members in human rights work through civic engagement projects, internships, events, art, and activism.


As Long As Grass Grows

Dina Gilio-Whitaker, Lecturer of American Indian Studies, CA State University San Marcos
Monday, November 14, 7 p.m.
Ostrove Auditorium, Diamond Building

Dina Gilio-Whitaker (Colville Confederated Tribes) is a lecturer of American Indian Studies at California State University San Marcos, and an independent consultant and educator in environmental justice policy planning.

Film Screening: 500 YEARS

Post-film discussion with Oak Fellow, Lucía Ixchíu, and director, Pamela Yates
Thursday, December 1, 7 p.m.
Ostrove Auditorium, Diamond Building

Focusing on universal themes of justice, racism, power and corruption, 500 YEARS tells the story from the perspective of the majority indigenous Mayan population, and their struggles in the country’s growing democracy.

Domestic Violence Impact on Children

Post-film panel discussion with local survivors
Sunday, February 12, 2:30 p.m.
Maine Film Center, 93 Maine Street, Waterville, ME

Join us for a Finding Our Voices program of short films, personal narratives from local survivors, and community conversation on domestic violence and its impacts on children.

- 2022/23 Theme -

Indigenous Rights

The 2022-23 theme for the Oak Institute is Indigenous Rights. Indigenous people and communities reside in every corner of the world, maintaining their livelihood, traditions, and culture on their ancestral lands. Colonialism and the formation of modern nation-state borders have created mass human rights violations…

- Oak Fellows -

Michelle Cook & Ana Lucía Ixchíu Hernández

The 2022 Oak Human Rights Fellows are Michelle Cook and Ana Lucía Ixchíu Hernández. Both will join the Colby community for the Fall 2022 semester to raise awareness on issues of indigenous rights, and share the ways colonialism and the formation of modern nation-state borders have created mass human rights violations for indigenous peoples and made cultural survival increasingly difficult. 

- 2023/24 THEME -

Health & Human Rights

The Oak Institute’s 2023-2024 theme is Health and Human Rights. Our goal is to identify a practitioner who works tirelessly in defending one of our most basic and essential rights as human beings. Although it can be hard to define, health is not, as the World Health Organization (WHO) reminds us, simply the absence of disease. Instead, health can be understood as a holistic and affirmative way of existing in the world.


Student Internships

The Oak Institute for Human Rights offers summer internship funding to allow students to pursue internships at institutions that work on issues of human rights, broadly defined. Internship funding (up to $5,000) is available to continuing full-time Colby students over the…

In The News

Staying informed is critical. Find quality articles from vetted news sources and learn what’s happening around our world related to human rights and this year’s theme, Indigenous Rights. 

Previous Fellows

Since 1998 Colby has had 27 Oak Institute for Human Rights Fellows from 23 countries. Prior to being selected, they all had been working on various areas of human rights, from indigenous people’s rights to human trafficking to food sovereignty.