Clark Honors College Stern fellows travel to Oxford over spring break

Nine undergraduate students from the University of Oregon's Clark Honors College and 10 students from the Conflict and Dispute Resolution Program traveled to London for a spring break workshop and seminar at Oxford University on global justice and human rights.

The Stern Fellowships fund - created by a $120,000 gift two years ago from David B. Stern, president of the Portland financial services firm D.B. Stern & Co. and 1995 recipient of the UO Distinguished Service Award – made the trip possible.

“I am looking forward to experiencing the academic rigor and challenge of a university like Oxford,” Corinne Yank, a senior in the Clark Honors College, said prior to leaving for the spring break seminar.

The students will work with Cheney Ryan and Hugo Slim. Ryan works part of the year as an emeritus professor in the Conflict and Dispute Resolution Program at the UO School of Law; the rest of his time is spent at Oxford. Slim is one of Oxford’s leading authorities on the area of human rights.

This spring break marks the second year that UO has sent students to Oxford.

Prior to the trip to London, the students were responsible for a set of rigorous readings to prepare them for the intensive workshop at Oxford, which focuses this year on the Syrian conflict. The students are participating each day in discussion, intense evaluation and reports on what they have learned.

“I am also excited to learn more about human rights and global justice, a field which I am extremely passionate about, in a cross-cultural setting, under experts like Dr. Hugo Slim," Yank said. "I hope to gain a better sense of what it would be like to actually pursue a career in International Human Rights Law.”

The Stern fund - known as the Fund for Social Justice and Peaceful Resolution of Conflicts - supports the fellowships, which provide student fellows various opportunities to actively participate in projects related to conflict resolution, ethics and human rights.

“These funds will enable some of our best students to engage with faculty and others in the active pursuit of some of the most pressing social challenges of our day,” Michael Moffitt, dean of the School of Law, said in a 2012 interview about the fund's establishment.

“This is a three-fold gift: helping to transform individual students’ lives, helping to strengthen important university programs, and helping to create lasting effects on the world,” Moffitt said.

The application process for this particular Stern Fellowship was competitive; students proved how the opportunity would be relevant to and also benefit their ongoing education.

“I hope they come out with a deeper appreciation of human rights; there really is immense value of hearing about this from the perspective of another country outside of the United States,” said Ryan, the emeritus professor who splits time between the UO and Oxford.

“I’ve been at Oxford for five years, and I think it’s a great thing for the students to come to understand that they are every bit as capable as everyone else doing this type of work," Ryan said. "They should set their sights high.”

- by Sarah MacKenzie, UO Office of Public Affairs Communications intern