Three Students Named Andover’s First Human Rights Fellows

Phillips Academy’s first Human Rights Fellows, Kristen Faulkner ’11, Vidush Mahansaria ’12 and Suzanne Wang ’13, were selected last Friday to research and discuss the global water crisis. The three, chosen from 15 applicants, will represent Phillips Academy at the 2011 Human Rights Student Leadership Conference at a conference at Choate Rosemary Hall this spring. “Students today will inherit a complex set of world problems, [and] effective leaders will need to be able to think critically, communicate effectively and collaborate with diverse groups in the design of solutions that address human rights concerns,” said Peg Harrigan, Instructor in Art and a faculty representative for the conference. Christopher Shaw, Instructor in History, and Harrigan, the faculty representatives for the 8-School Human Rights Group (8SHRG) Conference, interviewed and met with the applicants before selecting the final three. “It was difficult to narrow [the applicants] down but we asked seven to meet with us for an interview and finally decided upon Andover’s three Human Rights Scholars based on their essays and interview responses,” she continued. At the conference, teams from eight different schools will focus on a river while attempting to find a solution for the global water crisis. Phillips Academy’s team will address a watershed in Nigeria, but other schools will study the Nile River, the Amazon River, the Congo River and the Ohio River. The students will be given 15 minutes to present their conclusions at the conference at Choate over the course of two days. After the presentations, the teams will be reorganized in different groups, mixing students from several schools, to work on collaborative group presentations and tackle problem solving cases. According to Harrigan, the 8SHRG initiative began to help incorporate human rights into the curriculums of the eight participating schools. “As the schools [at the conference] have traditionally met to compete in interscholastic athletic contests and within forums for intellectual debate, the 8-School Human Rights Group was resolute in creating a new opportunity for students to collaborate with one another rather than compete,” said Harrigan. This spring, Faulkner, Mahansaria and Wang will present their conclusions to Phillips Academy community to share their understanding of humans rights issues. They hope to incorporate what they learn at the conference into their discussion. “Our presentation at Choate will only be fifteen minutes, but the one to the Andover community will probably be from 45 minutes to an hour. It will be very similar to a CAMD scholar presentation,” said Faulkner. A personal connection and passion for human rights led each of the Fellows to apply. An interest in economics and the water crisis in her home state of Alaska prompted Faulkner to apply for the position. “I’m from Alaska and there are a lot of rural villages near where I live and there are no rivers where inhabitants of the rural villages live so water needs to get shipped out to them. So I was just interested in how the scarcity of water in Alaska can really relate to the scarcity of water in Nigeria, and how it affects the two communities similarly and differently,” said Faulkner. A lack of Human Rights movements in his home country, Thailand, in the midst of human rights injustices inspired Mahansaria to participate. “I grew up in a country with riots and where prostitution is prevalent. In fact there is a brothel right across from my house, so Human Rights has always been a significant part of my life. When I eventually got the opportunity here to delve deep into human rights, even though its water, I jumped at the opportunity,” said Mahansaria. Like Mahansaria, Wang said she wanted to apply because of a lack of Human Rights movements in her home country, China. “I interact with Human Rights over the summer, when I’m in China. And I read a lot about the issues they have over there especially about propaganda and that was the beginning of my interest in human rights,” said Wang. The application process consisted of a few long-answer questions and a follow up interview a few days later. “We filled out the application, sent it in via email and then we got an email probably a week later saying that we were called back for an interview. The interview was only about five minutes long,” said Faulkner. Harrigan said, “The applicant pool was so good we hope those not selected this year will seriously consider reapplying for next year.”