Weissberg Fellows in Human Rights
Four to six Beloit College seniors are named Weissberg Fellows each year, nominated by faculty members. Fellows receive up to $6,000 each to help them take the next steps toward life-long engagement with human rights. Fellows are expected to report on the activities facilitated by their awards and to become active members of the Weissberg Human Rights Program network. In their applications to become Fellows, they will provide evidence of their commitment to understanding and improving human rights as well as discuss how the award will facilitate the further development of their capacity to contribute in this area. (Pictured: Marvin Weissberg, center, with Fellows (from left) Jessica Slattery'12, Oliver Wyckoff'12 and Mashail Malik'12).
Weissberg Fellows 2016
Marcail Distante’16, international relations, Latin American & Caribbean studies
Marcail has particular interest in the effects of U.S. foreign policy on human rights, and immigrant and refugee rights. While at Beloit she has engaged in the local community through teaching English classes, writing for the Latino newspaper, “La Voz de Beloit,” and serving as a reading buddy at elementary schools. With the help of the Weissberg scholarship she was able to carry out an internship at the International Human Rights Organization, Global Exchange, in San Francisco, where she researched the effects of U.S. drug policy on human rights issues in Central America, and racialized incarceration in the U.S. She studied abroad in Quito, Ecuador during the Spring of 2015 where she interned Kallari Chocolate, founded by Beloit alumna Judy Logback, and at the elementary school, Fundación Chicos de la Calle, as a teaching assistant. She currently teaches U.S. Citizenship at Stateline Literacy Council, Spanish at Grinnell Senior Citizen Hall, and early English at the Even Start family program. After graduation she plans to have an internship in Central America where she will research Central American human rights through thematic and country-specific contexts while engaging with the local community.
Simone Harstead’16, international relations, Spanish
During her time at Beloit, Simone has engaged with her interest in the promotion of human rights both in class and through extracurricular work. In the spring of 2015, Simone studied abroad in Seville, Spain and worked with a local NGO that helped immigrants acclimate to life in Spain. She has recently been focusing most on policy work in women’s health and rights, and is currently writing her senior thesis on reproductive rights in Latin America. Simone has also pursued these interests at various internships at places like the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative in NYC and the Wisconsin Women’s Network in Madison. Currently, she is writing human rights blog posts for Forward Woman and teaching a beginner Spanish class at the Grinnell Senior Center. She is now planning for her post-graduate fellowship and preparing to engage in human rights work in Latin America. Simone will most likely be working with Casa Nica, a volunteer organization in Mayasa, Nicaragua that works in human development. Through Casa Nica, she is either going to work with Ixchen, a local organization that promotes women’s health and well-being, or in a clinic that specializes in women’s health so that she can see the medical side to women’s health.
Fabiola Hernandez’16, anthropology
While at Beloit, Fabi’s academic trajectory focused on investigating women’s reproductive health and body politics, both cross culturally and in the United States. As a McNair scholar, she designed qualitative and quantitative projects to understand female menstruation as a multifaceted bio-cultural phenomenon. Her research focused on normalizing the conversation surrounding this topic and highlighting its linkage to education, women’s economic and social well being, and environmental concerns. Last summer, with funding from the Mouat-Whiteford grant and the Provost Office, she conducted an ethnography in Peru to understand how rural Cusqueñas give birth and access maternal and childcare health (MCH) services. Her presentation at International Symposium elaborated on the tension between state policies to improve MCH services and violations of women’s reproductive and human rights during the Fujimori administration. Fabiola’s other courses and experiences at Beloit have also served as platforms for her to analyze injustices against indigenous and immigrant populations in Latin America. She has interned with the International Mayan League, Community Action Inc. and volunteered with organizations like Stateline Literacy Council.
After graduation, Fabiola plans to get settled New England and study the effects of health policies on maternal and infant care domestically as it will connect with her future endeavors in graduate school. She will enroll in the fall at Brown University on track for her PhD.
Aimee Oda’16, international relations, music minor
As a first-year student, Aimee took comparative politics which led her to major in international relations. Throughout her liberal arts education, she pieced together an interdisciplinary understanding of international development. In the fall of her junior year, she spent the semester at American University where she did independent research on human trafficking in Central America. Upon her return to Beloit, she presented in a panel entitled “Everyday Exploitation: A Look at Human Trafficking in the Americas.” She will spend the summer doing an internship to gain experience with advocacy work on social justice issues. This fall, she will pursue a master’s degree in international development, She plans to approach the discipline through a human rights lens.
Fabiola Ramirez’16, political science, education
Fabi was born in Chihuahua, Mexico and brought to live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at the age of eight. She is double majoring in Political Science and Education at Beloit. After college, she will be teaching high school History in Milwaukee's south side, a low income neighborhood of predominantly Latino students, through Teach for America. She is excited to get this opportunity to give back to my community and make a difference in the lives of children.
Willene “Lena” Wright’16, environmental studies, political science minor
Lena’s academic interests include refugees and migration, urban agriculture, and international policy. Studying abroad in Denmark piqued her interest in Refugee Law and her senior thesis provided a normative foundation for the legal recognition of climate change refugees. Her sophomore year, in conjunction with Vandana Shiva’s residency as Weissberg Chair, she presented on a panel about the efficacy and effectiveness of food activism on campus. She has spent four years and one summer as the Founder, Director and Sustainability Fellow for the Beloit Urban Garden, where she has grown food for the cafeteria and built an institutionally sustainable structure for future student leadership. After graduation, Lena looks forward to strengthening her coalition-building, community organizing, and asset development skillset in Austin, Texas while running public-interest campaigns for TexPIRG and Environment Texas.
Weissberg Fellows 2015
Reine Lucas’15, Anthropology & Sociology
Though I am an American citizen I had never lived in the United States until college. Moving back to my country of citizenship for the first time, I suffered from culture-shock in a unique way. Later becoming an anthropology and sociology double major, I began to delve more deeply into identity, particularly race as I was also learning how to be a part of the racial climate as a biracial person. Later, I became a moderator for Sustained Dialogue, an organization on campus that brings students together to engage in open dialogues about identity. My work with Sustained Dialogue has allowed me to investigate identity with others on an experiential level.
Being involved in several student groups, such as Theta Pi Gamma sorority, Beloit Student Congress, and the Athletics department has given me the chance to understand and interact with different groups that make up Beloit College. It has also allowed me to engage larger issues on a personal level. I hope to use this knowledge in the future, as I will be applying to a masters program in the next couple of years, with a focus on Peace and Conflict Studies. Next year, I will complete an honors term at Beloit College as a leader for the Sustained Dialogue program.
Devin Mandell’15, Anthropology
Early in my Beloit College academic career I started to focus my education on human rights, taking the Human Rights Seminar and other classes across the disciplines to try and holistically understand human rights. My academic interests within the discipline of anthropology have focused primarily on identity studies, particularly the intersections of race, gender, culture, and ethnicity. Through these studies I have combined my understanding of human rights to encompass the multitude of personal and human social and cultural factors that impact human rights work. Wanting to gain more applied experience learning about human rights, I spent my junior year abroad, doing a SIT study abroad program in Nepal studying Tibetan and Himalayan peoples and the spring semester in Turkey where I was able to learn and engage with Refugee communities and understand more deeply the role of identity in human rights.
Coming into my senior year I began to focus my engagement with human rights by looking at it as a frame to understand the inequalities and unequal access to resources, education, and the institution and systematic inequalities that affect many communities in the United States based on race, ethnicity, identity and socioeconomic status. I have taken a position for next year in as an AmeriCorp Promise Fellow for the Check and Connect Program. I will be working on dropout prevention in Minneapolis Public High Schools, which enables me to continue to engage with these human rights issues in the US.
Namoonga Mantina’15, Health and Society
I am an international student from Zambia, majoring in health & society, with minors in Biology and Chemistry. On campus, I have served as a moderator for Sustained Dialogue, a coordinator for the #blacklivematterbeloit movement, and I am a member of Mortar Board Senior Honor Society and Rho Lambda National Leadership Recognition Society for Sorority Women.
As a health & society major, my academic work and engagement with human rights has primarily been from a health care perspective, exploring social determinants of health and how different countries approach healthcare in terms of service provision, ease of access, cultural understandings of health and how health is subsequently addressed in difference cultural and social contexts. In my junior year I participated in a comparative studies program that explored these facets in countries of Brazil, Vietnam and South Africa. For the future, I aspire to become a Pediatric physician. I do hope to continue my affiliation with Sustained Dialogue in some capacity and integrate it in community engagement endeavors to further explore social determinants of health and generate sustainable solutions that account for and accommodate local context.
Allison Smith’15, International Relations & Russian
As an International Relations and Russian double-major, I have concentrated my study of human rights on Russia and post-Soviet states. While studying abroad n Vladivostok Russia, I was a guest speaker at the annual “International Youth Forum” for Russian high school students. I actively engaged young Russians on the importance of understanding and respecting other countries’ national treasures. I have also interned at the Community of Democracies in Warsaw Poland, where I monitored the status of democracy and the human rights situation in Ukraine by translating Russian newspapers for the organization. I plan to continue to work with human rights in relation to Russia and Ukraine by going to Ukraine and speaking with refugees displaced by the civil war.
I will use this experience in my work for the Department of Homeland Security as a refugee or immigration officer for a couple of years after graduation in order to help Russian-speaking refugees in particular. My goal is to go to graduate school and obtain a Masters in foreign policy, with a concentration in Russia and post-Soviet States. This program will allow me to promote human rights in policy decisions and use policy to increase respect for human rights.
Weissberg Fellows 2014
Jane (Yee Seul) Choi‘14, anthropology
I am a South Korean citizen who has lived most of my life in South Africa, and am majoring in Anthropology. This unique background has become an essential part of my identity and my academic interest: Over the years I have come to the realization of the impact that South Africa’s history of racism has on not just the citizens of the nation but on immigrants, migrants and refugees. The internship I conducted during my sophomore year with Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town, which assists migrants and immigrants integrate into South African society, furthermore introduced me to the human rights issues of immigrants and refugees and the discrimination they face due to their ethnicity/race and culture. Through the Lutheran Volunteer Corps, I have secured a job position and will work for the Refugee and Immigrant program of Advocates for Human Rights, a non-profit organization in Minneapolis. Through this work I plan to continue exploring my interest in the complex intersection of citizenship, race and culture and how they might interfere with the complete integration into a society where one’s race/culture is not dominant.
Camilla Jackson’14, political science & history
I am from Newton, Massachusetts. While at Beloit I have enjoyed balancing academics and athletics. I have been a four-year member of the Track and Field program, captain for 2013 and 2014, three-year member of the Women’s soccer team, captain 2011 and 2013, and president of the Senior Bench Chapter of Mortar Board National Honor’s Society. As a political science and history major, I have focused on post-conflict peacebuilding, restorative justice and human rights. My 2011 trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina with Global Youth Connect, a human rights organization, introduced me to the Balkans and the realities of post-conflict transformation for an ethnically divided country. In 2012, I spent two weeks at the School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont, focused on constructive dialogue, mediation and peacebuilding. Recently, I have shifted my focus to domestic human rights issues, focusing on indigenous rights and immigration reform. After graduation, I plan to stay around the area to continue my work in immigration legal reform and refugee settlement, serving the large immigrant and refugee populations of Rockford, IL. I plan to attend Law school in the fall of 2017.
Amanda Lawnicki, '14, international relations & Russian
I'm majoring in International Relations and Russian, but I also have a soft spot for arts. I wanted a way to combine these interests and so started to look at post-conflict/post-Soviet memorialization. So, I studied abroad for a semester in Russia and for a semester in Serbia, Bosnia, and Kosovo through SIT. I also received the Weissberg Scholarship, and was able to use those funds to study memoralization in Hungary, Ukraine, Poland, and among the Ukrainian-Canadian diaspora. When I came back to Beloit, with the help of James Pearson I was able to host an exhibit on the Holodomor (Ukrainian genocide of 1932-33) at the Wright museum. I hope to use the Weissberg Fellowship return to Bosnia to work with the Center for Peacebuilding in Sanski Most, an organization devoted to uniting people from different ethnic backgrounds in an attempt to foster reconciliation. In the future I would like to attend graduate school and work for civil society organizations devoted to human rights issues.
Megan Slavish’14, health & society
I study health and society with minors in political science and journalism. While abroad during a semester in Botswana and a semester on a comparative health program in India, Argentina, and South Africa, I studied international health and human rights. These became the basis for my senior honors thesis on the changing epidemiology of black South Africans, especially in the wake of apartheid. At Beloit, I was a member of the Beloit Public Health Initiative and worked to reduce rates of sexually transmitted infections in Beloit youth through an after-school club she facilitated at Beloit Memorial High School. I also served on the leadership team for the Rock County STI Coalition and worked to reduce rates of African-American infant mortality with the Beloit Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families. In the future, I plan to continue refining my interest in the intersection of race, health, and social justice by pursuing a career in international health and development.
Arthur Staub’14, business economics & Spanish
As a Business Economics and Spanish double-major I have found Latin America to be the common ground on which to combine my two areas of study. During my semester abroad in Quito Ecuador at The University of San Francisco of Quito in the Fall of 2013, I became very interested in the human component of economic development. My time in Ecuador gave me a glimpse into the living conditions of the various socio-economic groups within a developing country. A trip to the Tiputini Biodiversity Station was the most impactful as I was introduced to members of the Huaorani tribe and their battle for human rights which have been neglected in Ecuador’s recent development policies. Since then my studies have focused on the importance of establishing socio-economic rights in the process of economic development with a closer area study of Latin America and the Caribbean. As a part of the Senior Seminar in Economics last semester, I wrote my thesis on the sustainability of the use of land containing natural resources in Ecuador, specifically crude oil. Currently, I am working with group of classmates as intern consultants to a government agency of Belize called Beltraide focusing on export development and private-sector growth. With the help of the Weissberg Foundation, I will be continuing my work with the Beltraide this summer in Belize as an intern.
Weissberg Fellows 2013
Kidan Araya’13, international relations, environmental studies
Kidan is a Weissberg Scholar (2012-13) from Sacramento, California. Her academic and research interests include environmental justice, food policy and access, and community resource management. Kidan spent a semester in Cameroon studying social pluralism, development, French, and community forestry. With funding from the Weissberg Scholarship, in the summer of 2012 Kidan returned to Cameroon to conduct research on political factors influencing the forest management of indigenous Bagyeli people in southwestern Cameroon. After interning with two urban food security projects in New Orleans and Boston and also observing issues of food access and hunger throughout different locations in Cameroon, Kidan became interested in the interconnectedness of agricultural policy, food, race, and space and is passionate about working towards improving food access as a human rights issue. Kidan has just accepted an offer of admission into the Geography doctoral program at the University of Washington at Seattle where she hopes to earn her PhD and work as a top-level research consultant and director on issues related to food, agriculture, race, and development.
Diana Gutiérrez-Meza ’13, Health & Society
Diana grew up in a remote region of Ecuador, where she became aware of the inequalities and racism that particularly impact the poor and Afro-Ecuadorian and Indigenous communities. She believes she has been able to engage and understand human rights issues pertaining women, minority populations, and adolescents through her undergraduate research conducted with the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program, her coursework and club involvement at Beloit College, and her internship experience with the Ministry of Health of Pastaza, Ecuador, made possible by a Weissberg Human Rights Grant. Passionate about protecting and promoting the rights of minority women through a health based approach, she says, “When we engage in a conversation about women’s health, it is impossible to avoid the issues surrounding human rights.” To expand her knowledge, conduct research, and make valuable contributions to the reproductive health of women of African descent in Latin American countries, she will join the Masters of Public Health (MPH) in Global Health Program at the University of South Florida College Of Public Health in fall 2013.
Emily Johnson’13, international relations
Emily spent the fall of her junior year in Uganda where she lived at a national park and worked with a community conservation program. The following spring, she studied at the University of Botswana and conducted research on agricultural extension and land tenure reform. Over the course of her year abroad, she came to appreciate the important role research plays in human rights and international development. She has since developed a passion for people-centered conservation and participatory research and development. She is using the Weissberg fellowship to return to East Africa to intern for an agricultural development organization in Kenya and to work as a research fellow in the fall.
Kyle Dallman’13, international relations
The issue of human rights has been an ever-present facet of Kyle’s course work. Over the past two years, his studies became more focused on the field of human rights in South Africa. In the spring of his Junior year at Beloit, he studied abroad with the School for International Training (SIT) in Cape Town, South Africa on a program entitled, “Multiculturalism and Human Rights.” Over the 5 months he spent in Cape Town, he learned the history and continuing legacies of apartheid, and moved between four different homestays of different racial and cultural groups living in South Africa today. While abroad, he completed an Independent Study Project on a march protesting the lack of land available to the city’s non-white residents that was later published on SIT’s website. Upon his return to Beloit, he continued to study racial politics in South Africa and their implications for human rights. He authored his senior thesis on the disparity in water access between formal and informal neighborhoods in South Africa, and how this has led to a social movement of formalized protest groups. Further, he presented in the Fall semester International Symposium on his thesis research and time spent in Cape Town. In these ways, his studies have become focused on human rights and access to services over the past two years at Beloit College.
Kun “Cleo” Zhang’13, international relations, math
Kun comes from Jiaxing China. She has interned in human rights-related NGOs in both China and the United States, with funding from Weissberg Human Rights Grants. She wrote her senior thesis on transnational advocacy networks in China and how NGOs can promote human rights for people living with HIV/AIDS. Kun plans to obtain a Master’s degree in international affairs with a concentration in human rights at Columbia University.
Weissberg Fellows 2012
Majors: International Political Economy and Philosophy
Mashail volunteered after the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, which jump started her interests in human rights. At Beloit, she has served as a chair of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Mashail plans to complete a Masters degree at the University of Chicago in International Relations in hopes of returning to Pakistan to work in nonprofit organizations to improve political and economic issues in Pakistan.
Major: International Relations
Ben became interested in human rights in high school through the Students for Social Justice club. While at Beloit, Ben gained a new perspective on inner-city poverty through his Duffy Internship at Community Action. Ben is passionate about drug policy in the united states and the impact of the war on drugs on Latin America. He plans on improving his Spanish and working with Latin American organizations in the future. He has secured an internship with International Peace Brigades.
Major: Anthropology Minor: Spanish
Jessica’s studies have incorporated a human rights lens in many ways. She studied abroad in Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil, completing a research project on the Commercialization of the Cultural Heritage in Northern Argentina. She also participated in the Jamaica Field School, studying special segregation in housing. She is currently the Program Manager for the Stateline Literacy Council in Beloit. She plans to do an internship in a housing organization in Mexico City following graduation.
Major: Political Science
Oliver has been very dedicated to his academic study of human rights issues. In 2009, he traveled to Rwanda as a member of the Global Youth Connect delegation studying the legacy of genocide. He has volunteered for a local homeless shelter and worked for Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington State. Oliver plans to pursue his Master’s degree in international development in Denmark following graduation from Beloit College.
Major: International Relations
In his Health and Society minor studies, Ian has focused heavily on public health responses to bridging health disparities in the US and Latin America. While studying abroad in Chile, Ian worked to address gaps in health care to sex workers. In Washington, DC, he interned with district Health Department on meeting the health needs of underserved populations. In Beloit, he has been a leader in founding the Beloit Public Health Initiative, aiming to reduce the burden of sexually-transmitted diseases. After graduation, Ian plans to return to working on policy issues with the Washington DC Department of Health, eventually attending graduate school in policy studies.