Why look for practitioners doing on-the-ground work at personal risk?
This is our mandate from our donors, the Oak Foundation, which is based in Geneva. Their model was a Turkish woman trained at the International Center for the Rehabilitation of Torture Victims in Copenhagen (which they also support) who lobbies against torture and other inhuman prison conditions despite death threats and harassment. Our first Oak Fellow was a Pakistani journalist who was jailed for his reporting on child bonded labor. Another was a Congolese activist who founded an NGO to protect civilians from political violence in one of the most war-torn parts of the eastern Congo near the Rwandan border. The rationale is that these are the people who most need a respite from difficult front-line duties for the purposes of reflection, writing, and communicating their work to the campus community.
What about candidates who did on-the-ground work at personal risk, but are not doing so currently, either because they are in exile or have moved on to other work?
That is a matter to be decided by the Oak Selection Committee.
Does the Oak Fellowship provide a graduate degree program or post-graduate courses in international human rights?
No. The Oak Fellowship is not a training program for human rights practitioners. Colby College is an exclusively undergraduate institution and does not offer graduate or post-graduate training. The Oak Fellowship is a faculty position.
While the Oak Fellow is free to take any courses offered at the College, his or her primary responsibility is to teach about human rights issues in his or her area. For academic human rights training programs, check our links page.
Does the Oak Fellowship provide training for human rights practitioners?
No. The Oak Institute does not provide any training programs. For those interested in training programs, the best known is at Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Human Rights. For more options browse through our resources pages.
Does the Oak Fellowship provide a scholarship for an undergraduate degree?
No. However, under a separate program, Colby College does provide a Colby-Oak International Scholarship for international undergraduate students, some of which are designated for students who individually or whose families have suffered political oppression, including torture. That program is run out of the Admissions Office, not the Oak Institute. For more information, see Diversity Scholarships.
Are there prerequisites for an Oak Fellowship?
Since the fellowship is designed for activists rather than scholars, there are no formal prerequisites.
Is there any age requirement?
Is there a citizenship requirement?
Are those working on human rights issues within the United States eligible?
The Fellowship is designed for people doing human rights work outside the United States. A U.S.-based candidate might be eligible if (a) his or her base of operations was in the U.S. while substantial work was done abroad, or (b) if he or she worked on an issue in the United States and other countries.
Do candidates have to come from the country in which they are working or can they be outsiders working for governmental and non-governmental organizations?
Both those indigenous to the area and outsiders are theoretically eligible as long as they meet the requirement of doing work on the ground at some level of risk.
Is there an English fluency or proficiency requirement?
The Fellow must have a functional level of verbal ability in English. The Fellow is required to lead a seminar class that meets once a week and the discussion will take place in English. So, while the Fellow’s English proficiency need not be perfect or grammatically correct all the time, he/she would, at the minimum, need to be able to converse in such a way that she/he could illustrate points/topics to the class and be able to respond to questions, most of which will be posed in English. Our hope is that we will be able to use student research assistants to help facilitate the class and provide some translation support, but the Fellow will need to play an active role and lead the class discussion. The Fellow will also need to live independently in the community, where English is spoken.
Should an applicant send publications? Not necessarily. This is not a research or traditional academic position. On the other hand, if the publications speak to the kind of work you have done or the likely contribution you might make on campus, the applicant should feel free to include them.
Can I provide web links in addition to or instead of paper publications?
Yes, please! In the application (Question III part C) there is a place you can provide electronic addresses to document your work. We are appreciative of as many electronic references to your work as you would like to provide.