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Bard College Dengler Fellows Pursue Internships in Human Rights

Jennifer Wai-Lan Huang
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—This summer, eleven students have been designated as Dengler Fellows through the Human Rights Project at Bard (HRP). HRP has supported Bard students working in summer internships with human rights, humanitarian, development, and research organizations every year since its inception. This year, longtime donor Tom Dengler ’61, a keen supporter of Bard’s Human Rights Program, provided a special gift in support of these select students. The Dengler Fellows, many of whom are also being supported by the Center for Civic Engagement and other offices at Bard, interned with a number of leading organizations around the globe.

Lauren Blaxter ’13, a human rights major, spent her summer in Jerusalem working with the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs, a prominent independent Palestinian think tank based in East Jerusalem ( “Dialogue and discourse aid the peace process by facilitating understanding in a conflict where political rhetoric commonly stops dialogue rather than creating it,” says Blaxter.

Jessica Louise Channell ’14 furthered her commitment to work on issues of domestic violence, sexual education, and women’s rights advocacy through an internship with Women Helping Battered Women in Burlington, Vermont (

Benjamin DiFabbio ’13, a political studies and Middle Eastern studies major, worked with the Foreign Relations Breakthrough Project in Jerusalem at the Organization for International Cooperation ( “I am grateful for the experience of living in Jerusalem and for the opportunity to submerge myself in my work in this region of the world,” says DiFabbio. “My job in Jerusalem was to contact the offices of influential figures in and around the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, and try to set up meetings between these officials and OIC President Arnold Keiser. I believe very strongly that the consulting work of OIC is central to the pursuit of a peaceful end to these tragic tensions which have endured the better part of a century.”

Sagiv Galai ’15 worked with Amnesty International in New York (, assisting with Amnesty International’s participation in the World Social Forum in Tunisia and the International Arms Trade Treaty negotiations, as well as helping to organize a young activist training event in New York.

Arthur Holland Michel ’13, a double major in historical studies and written arts from Cusco, Peru, served as a full-time editorial intern at The Paris Review in New York ( His Dengler Fellowship also supported his Bard Senior Project research on the history and socioeconomic profile of Peruvian immigration into the tri-state area from 1960 to 1990. “My research has taught me the immense complexity of issues of nationalism, assimilation, and the immigrant narrative. If we are to enact the sensible immigration policy in this country, we have to be privy to this complexity,” says Michel.

Leela Khanna ’15, political studies and human rights major, had an internship at the Centre for Social Research, a prominent women’s rights research and advocacy NGO in New Delhi, India ( “I worked on India-Women in Leadership, which promotes increased female leadership in politics by preparing midcareer women, with a demonstrated interest in politics, with the proper skills and knowledge to effectively contest in elections and create a strong network of women leaders,” says Khanna. “It’s very easy to become overwhelmed by the constant gender imbalances that are so present in every aspect of Indian society, even in a metropolis like New Delhi. I began to realize that one of the best ways to change this imbalance is by creating equality at the topmost level: government.”

Margaret Kucera ’13, a human rights major, was a programs and events intern at the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance headquarters in Chicago (, where she further investigated mental health issues as human rights issues, a focus of her studies at Bard. “The most fulfilling part of my work was in the day-to-day responses to individuals requesting resources for their own mental health struggles; whether through information, peer support group locations, or simply the acknowledgement that they were not alone. I was able to see how an honest and understanding approach to mental illness can allow for individuals to properly acknowledge their own sense of self as well as their sense of humanity.”

Madeline McQuail ’14 worked at the Masakhane Center in Newark, New Jersey, an innovative NGO that focuses on sexual health and education for young adults (

Mehdi Rahmati ’13, a human rights major who came to Bard from Kabul, Afghanistan, interned at the Open Society Institute’s South Asia Division in New York (, where he gained experience related to his Bard Senior Project on transitional justice in Afghanistan. “This summer I had the opportunity to investigate cases of civilian casualties across Afghanistan,” says Rahmati. “Though I was born in the times of war, my childhood dream never was to deal with war crimes as I prepare to graduate from college. Yet, here I am. When will peace prevail?”

Sarah Stern ’13, an anthropology and Middle Eastern studies major, worked at Encounter, an NGO founded by American rabbis as a conflict transformation organization to equip influential Jewish leaders from across the political and ideological spectra with access to Palestinian perspectives and claims on the ground ( “Working at Encounter taught me how to deliver an important message of cross-cultural political engagement to sensitive audiences,” says Stern. “I talked to various members from the North American Jewish community and the Palestinian community in the West Bank. The importance of avoiding trigger words on either end became clear if we were to succeed in convincing a group with a range of participants to come together.”

Nadine Tadros ’14, an anthropology and Middle Eastern studies major, interned with the Jerusalem Archaeological Studies Unit at Al-Quds University in Abu Dis, West Bank (, taking part in an effort to raise awareness of the shared heritage of the land.

Information about the Human Rights Project internship support program, along with news about previous award winners, is available at

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This event was last updated on 09-04-2012