The recipients of the 2014 Oliver W. Koonz Prize — which recognizes the innovative work being done on human rights by students — were  Jacob Tobia (’14), Lauren Kelly (’16) for their outstanding essays and Jaime Bergstrom (’15) for the best alternative project.

Below are the responses of the 2014 Koonz Prize judges, Professors Claudia Koonz of History and Erika Weinthal of Environmental Policy:

Jacob TobiaJacob Tobia’s (’14) study of Simon Nkoli’s activism in South Africa in the 1980s highlights the complexity of intersectional politics. What happens when, in this case, an anti-apartheid activist also fights for gay rights in a virtually all white organization? By uravelling this narrative on local, national and international levels Tobia has revised conventional public memory about both movements. Using a wealth of primary sources, he asks us not for moral judgement, but for intellectual engagement with the paradoxes of courageous individuals’ struggles to overcome multiple violations of human rights.


Lauren KellyIn “The Human Rights Impacts of VAWA 2013: A True Victory for Native American Women?” Lauren Kelly (’16) introduces readers to the shocking rates of violence against Native American women, most of which is committed by non-native American men. Using rich primary sources and case studies Kelly tests the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence against Women act against three benchmarks of human rights and warns that this widely-hailed law actually may leave women more vulnerable because it weakens their right to seek effective legal remedy and because it excludes crimes targeting LGBT victims. Kelly, however, concludes with a thoughtful and politically realistic set of proposals to correct this                                                                         imperfect law.

Jamie BergstromJamie Bergstrom’s (’15) visually striking guide, Beyond the Classroom,” inspires tutors of refugees to break out of school-centered learning and introduce their tutees to the cultural context in which they now live. Quotations from famous refugees (Freud and the Dali Lama among them) and key definitions expand tutees’ view of themselves in a global context. Each module includes innovative pedagogical strategies, such as visual problem solving, for learning in particular disciplines, but it also relates these goals to tutees’ personal development, creativity, and cultural adaptation. Although Bergstrom wrote it for an International Rescue Committee youth program, this handbook provides a wealth of practical suggestions for anyone tutoring students who live between two cultures. Its subtle message comes through on every page: tutors are not only teaching skills but also enhancing their tutees’ understanding of human rights.