Third-year Johan Cavert will learn about human rights, immigration, and social justice on an international stage as a Humanity in Action fellow in the Netherlands this summer.
The Humanity in Action (HIA) Fellowship brings together international groups of university students and recent graduates to explore national histories of discrimination and resistance, as well as examples of issues affecting different minority groups today. Fellows participate in intensive four-week educational programs located in cities across Europe and the United States, with approximately 20 local and international students in each program. Each program provides a site-specific curriculum for understanding the historical and cultural context in which challenges to pluralism and liberal democracy occur.
Cavert says his experience helping asylum applicants with The Advocates for Human Rights, a nonprofit legal office, inspired him to apply to for the HIA fellowship.
“I heard the testimony of immigrants whose lives had been upended by violence, abuse, and trauma. Those intense conversations taught me the importance of creating opportunities for international discussions with diverse groups about the impact of discriminatory policies and political violence,” says Cavert, a Hispanic studies and economics major from Minneapolis. “That lesson was reinforced serving in the Office of Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress. The vitriol and verbal degradations our office received cemented in my mind the need for spaces to cultivate intercultural understanding and cross-cultural dialogue.”
Cavert is especially excited to study and immerse himself in the culture of Amsterdam.
“The importance of climate change for a country that sits below sea level will also allow me to delve into issues surrounding sustainability and environmental justice from a new perspective,” he says.
After the four-week on-site educational programs, fellows return to their home countries to develop and implement action projects to address social justice issues in their own communities.
“After my fellowship finishes, I hope to implement a project influenced by environmental initiatives in the Netherlands. My interests include public transportation, sustainable trade, and agricultural policy.”
Cavert says living and working abroad has been an integral aspect of his educational experience and is something he plans to continue after Oberlin. He took a gap year after high school and traveled throughout the United States and Europe as a member of Servas International. “In that capacity, I was able to stay in the homes of fellow members who, like me, were dedicated to cultivating world peace and cross-cultural diplomacy through cultural exchange.”
On campus, Cavert is a sustainability liaison for Student Senate and is a member of the Faculty Committee on Environmental Sustainability, the Green EDGE Fund, and the Carbon Neutrality Student Advisory Board. He also hosts a WOBC radio show/podcast about local and international news and teaches in the Spanish in the Elementary Schools program.
Cavert says he intends to pursue a career in public policy, law, or economics. After graduation, he plans to study or work abroad and further his understanding of foreign languages and international politics and culture.
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