The Oak Fellowship annually offers an opportunity for one prominent human rights activist to take leave from frontline work and spend the fall semester in residence at Colby.
The Oak Fellow’s responsibilities include regular meetings with students through a small seminar class and informal discussion groups. Additionally, the fellow works with Colby’s faculty to share a lecture series or symposium on their human rights interests. The fellow participates in intellectual life on campus, providing Colby students the opportunity to work with an internationally recognized human rights activist.
In addition to a $36,000 stipend, the fellowship includes health benefits, housing, a campus meal plan, and transportation. The fellowship also provides an office, access to the College’s computer and library resources, a student assistant to help with the seminar and research, and secretarial support. To ensure that the fellow fully benefits from the extended respite and safety of the fellowship experience, the program is designed to allow dependent family members to join the fellow in residence at Colby. A limited budget is allocated to help offset the cost of transportation, housing, and meals for family members who accompany the fellow.
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. We can think of health at many different, interconnected scales: individual, family, community, society, and planetary. After all, the preamble of the 1946 Constitution of the World Health Organization states that “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.”
But reality falls far short of this declaration because of ever-changing climate and environmental factors, pandemics, politicization of health-related issues, lack of access to the social and structural factors that make health possible such as safe drinking water and adequate sanitation; nourishing and nutritious food and housing; healthy working and environmental conditions; health-related education and information; access to health care; and racial and gender equality. The activist’s work should focus either on exposing and organizing against health and human rights violations or on affirmatively working to build systems, structures, or initiatives that promote health and well-being.