Centre News

Sam Yates ’11 receives Humanity in Action Fellowship


June 20, 2013 By Elizabeth Trollinger        
Centre College After graduating Valedictorian in 2011, Yates traveled to Dublin,
Ireland, as Centre College's first-ever George J. Mitchell Scholar,
where he studied theatre and performance at Trinity College
Dublin.

Centre College Yates ’11 met Irish president Michael D. Higgins during his tenure
as a Mitchell Scholar in Dublin, Ireland.

Sam Yates '11 has been selected for a 2013 Humanity in Action Fellowship that will take him to Washington, D.C., and the Netherlands this summer to study histories of discrimination and injustice.

"We are so thrilled to have Sam as a new member of the Humanity in Action network," says Pamela Rykowski, director of communications and administration at Humanity in Action.

Yates was part of a select group of college students and recent graduates from across the world who were chosen for Humanity in Action Fellowships this year.

"Being selected for the Fellowship is humbling," says Yates.

Humanity in Action is an international organization that "educates, inspires and connects a global network of students, young professionals and established leaders committed to promoting human rights, diversity and active citizenship—in their own communities and around the world," says Rykowski.

Yates appreciates the opportunity to incorporate matters of human rights into his own studies, which focus on theater.

"I haven't worked extensively in political science, history or social justice campaigns—though they have been at the periphery of my own academic and artistic pursuits," he says. "The opportunity to engage in dialogues about the challenges democratic countries face as they become more diverse societies will hopefully expand my own understanding of minority rights issues and better focus my current research interests."

Yates is no stranger to recognition—he was the first Centre student to be awarded a Mitchell Scholarship, through which he completed a Master's of Philosophy in theater and performance studies at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.

When Yates enters the American studies program at George Washington University this fall, he plans to continue his studies of human rights through the lens of theater.

"From Holocaust diaries and documents, to contemporary interviews from refugees seeking entry into the United States, chronicles of personal accounts are performative in the sense that they are a personal production for the storyteller, and incite particular action-responses for the audience," Yates says. "Questions about how these performances are made, processed and acted upon are what lead me to apply to the fellowship program."

To prepare for the fellowship, the group participated in a special orientation program in Washington, D.C., organized by the Council on Foreign Relations, including studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Following orientation, the group will spend the whole month of June in Amsterdam for more in-depth studies.

"We will be meeting with politicians, academics, journalists, businesspersons, artists—people from all walks of life who come into contact and combat minority injustice," Yates says. "At the same time, we will be conducting original research, which will debut at the 2013 Humanity in Action international conference in Warsaw, Poland."

Yates is looking forward to interacting with the other fellows in Amsterdam.

"There will be a mixture of Dutch, Bosnian and American students and recent graduates studying in the city," he says. "Getting to engage with people from radically different backgrounds over the course of the fellowship is, for me, one of the most appealing aspects of the program."

Yates' Humanity in Action Fellowship will not end upon leaving Europe: once he returns to Washington, D.C., he will create an outreach initiative based on his fellowship research on narration and national identity.

"I'm hoping this action project can be a pilot for future social-theater productions in refugee communities," he adds. "It could form the basis of doctoral research on the performance of nationhood and the integration versus assimilation debates underway in American culture."

Through the Humanity in Action Fellowship, Yates will only expand on the work he has already begun and plans to continue.

"What I hope to gain from my participation as an HIA Fellow are the tools to better engage in human rights discourses and a way to marry my own background in cultural performance studies with a field outside of the theater," he says.

Yates credits his time at Centre as an important stepping-stone toward this prestigious fellowship program.

"This fellowship is an extension of the international mindfulness layered throughout my Centre education," he says. "At Centre, being a 'global citizen' isn't just an adjective—it's an imperative that encourages you to venture outside your realms of comfort and make connections across the world.

"The opportunity to study abroad for both a CentreTerm and full semester gave me access to tools for living in another country for long periods of time," he adds. "Even now, two years out from Centre, these experiences remain as important perspectives in my everyday work."






Centre College, founded in 1819, is a nationally ranked liberal arts college in Danville, Ky. Centre hosted its second Vice Presidential Debate on 10.11.12, and remains the smallest college in the smallest town ever to host a general election debate. For more, click here.


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