MACON – Mercer University senior Aaron Scherf, a 2017 Fulbright U.S. Student Award-winner, was recently selected as a Humanity in Action Fellow and will visit Amsterdam May 26-June 25 to study minority issues in the Netherlands.
The fellowship program's aim is to facilitate a collective exploration of the social and political roots of discrimination in the Netherlands and to provide a forum for the discussion of potential solutions. The Amsterdam fellowship is highly interdisciplinary and bridges the gap between theory and practice by connecting fellows with academics and journalists, as well as nongovernmental organizations and grassroots activists.
The intellectual touchstone for Humanity in Action and the impetus for the Amsterdam fellowship has always been the study of the Holocaust – the most devastating example of the collapse of democracy and the denial of rights to minorities. During their first week in the Netherlands, fellows will discuss the role the Dutch took during this period and look at how the country has dealt with this period over the course of history. From this starting point, fellows will continue to discuss more contemporary themes such as immigration and integration, refugee issues, institutional racism, xenophobia, LGBTQIA rights, Islamophobia, diversity, disability and women's rights.
Scherf, from Acworth, is a triple-major in international business, finance and economics with minors in global development studies and management. Following his return from Amsterdam, he will conduct research in Germany for 10 months during the upcoming academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.
“The Humanity in Action program is designed to bring together passionate young activists from around the world to learn about how to ensure the rights of marginalized groups are protected in democratic states. To me, this kind of opportunity is not just an incredible chance to learn from the perspectives of others, it is a challenge to take those lessons and use them to make a more inclusive society,” said Scherf. “The 'Action' part of this organization is about what you can do to help others after the program ends, and that's what I'm really excited about. I just hope that Humanity in Action will help me to make a bigger difference in promoting social and economic justice – and that I can turn around and help other fellows in the program do the same in their communities. In my mind, it's just like being a part of the Mercer community – receiving great educational opportunities is really about finding out how to pay that same experience forward to others.”
Upon completion of his Humanity in Action Fellowship and Fulbright Award, Scherf hopes to pursue a master's degree in international development or international trade and investment policy, or continue to seek startup funding for LandLink, a social enterprise company he founded to provide secure registries for land deeds.
“Aaron's many accomplishments are impressive, but his sense of social consciousness is even more impressive. He has chosen to focus his career on securing economic and social stability for the most marginalized populations, and he deserves respect for his remarkable intelligence and for his incredible compassion,” said Dr. David A. Davis, director of fellowships and scholarships and associate professor of English.
As a student, he is the current vice president of the Student Government Association, and is an active member of Lambda Chi Alpha social fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi professional business fraternity and the Enactus Social Entrepreneurship Team, which he founded. He is a Stamps Scholar, James T. McAfee Endowed Vision and Leadership Scholar, Visionary Student with the Research that Reaches Out Office, peer adviser and former director of the Bear Bikes program.
The objective of the Humanity in Action Fellowship is to facilitate a collective exploration of the social and political roots of discrimination, as well as to provide a forum where potential solutions to some of today's most challenging issues can be considered and discussed. The programs are also intended to instill a responsibility among fellows to recognize and address the need to protect minorities and promote human rights – in their own communities and around the world.
Fellowships are offered in Amsterdam, Atlanta, Berlin, Copenhagen, Detroit, Sarajevo and Warsaw, and open to students and recent graduates who are from – or have attended or graduated from institutions in – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Poland, Ukraine and the United States. For more information, visit www.humanityinaction.org/programs/14-humanity-in-action-fellowship.