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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.


Film Screening: Manzanar Diverted: When Water Becomes Dust

Post-film discussion with filmmaker, Ann Kaneko, and Lone Pine Paiute Shoshone tribal historian, Kathy Jefferson Bancroft
Tuesday, March 7, 6:00 p.m. screening and dinner, 7:00 p.m. discussion
Parker Reed Room, Schair-Swenson-Watson Alumni Building

This award winning film presents an alliance of Native Americans, Japanese-American WWII incarerees and environmentalists to preserve Payahuunadü “the land of flowing water”.

Human Rights in the Field: Agriculture as Humanitarian Assistance

A conversation with Jocelyn Brown Hall
Thursday, March 30, 4:15 p.m.
Parker Reed Room, Schair-Swenson-Watson Alumni Building

The Oak Student Committee welcomes Jocelyn Brown Hall from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to speak about her experiences with FAO, her career in human rights, and agriculture as a tool for for building livelihoods. 

Human Rights in the Field: From Washington to the West Bank

A conversation with Ambassador Michèle Burke Bowe
Thursday, April 6, 5:00 p.m.
Schair-Swenson-Watson Alumni Building

The Oak Student Committee welcomes Ambassador Michèle Burke Bowe to speak about her career in human rights, both in Washington, D.C., and in Palestine. She will discuss her career and about the ethics of human rights across cultures.

- 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.