Three Honors College Students Win 2009 Humanity in Action Fellowships

Issue Date: 
April 26, 2009
Sesi AliuSesi Aliu
Daniel GoreDaniel Gore
Benjamin MericliBenjamin Mericli

Three University of Pittsburgh Honors College students have been selected to receive 2009 Humanity in Action (HIA) summer fellowships. Sesi Aliu, a sophomore majoring in international affairs and area studies in Pitt’s University Center for International Studies and French in Pitt’s School of Arts and Sciences, and Daniel Gore, a junior majoring in political science and history in Arts and Sciences, will participate in the HIA European Programs in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Paris, France, respectively; Benjamin Mericli, a senior majoring in engineering physics, philosophy, and linguistics in Arts and Sciences, will take part in the HIA American Program in New York City.

The University’s winning students were among 57 selected from a pool of more than 600 applicants. This is the fourth consecutive year that Pitt has competed successfully in the HIA Fellowship program.

The HIA European Programs—based in Denmark, France, Germany, The Netherlands, and Poland—focus on European issues of historic and contemporary importance, among them challenges from immigration, the integration of minorities, and the formation of international human rights doctrines. The HIA American Program, based in New York City, explores how Americans understand, practice, and manage diversity, including the role of the public and private sectors in addressing social problems.

“The HIA Fellowships are the foremost collegiate program for desirably integrating the production of thinkers and leaders,” said Alec Stewart, Honors College dean. “It is a remarkable initiative that engages student leaders in the study and work of human rights, a program that emphasizes responsibility and democratic values in the context of trans-Atlantic and intra-European dialogue. Aliu, Gore, and Mericli are proven exemplars of what the HIA represents.”

Aliu is a resident of Austin, Texas, whose family emigrated from Nigeria to the United States. In addition to pursuing his majors, Aliu has a minor in chemistry and is working on a certificate in African Studies. His long-term career interests include public-health policy. Last summer, he spent one month in Malawi as part of a student-led initiative to learn about and collaborate with community-based health and social service organizations, noting that the experience showed him the potential of grassroots movements to effect change and achieve social goals.

Aliu served as a research assistant in Pitt’s First Experiences in Research Program and is a member of Pitt’s Emerging Leaders Program and Student Leaders in International Medicine, serving as the latter group’s secretary and, most recently, as its copresident.

In 2007, Aliu was named a Helen S. Faison Scholar and, in 2008, he was inducted into the Golden Key International Honor Society. His other interests include journalism, basketball, world music, nature documentaries, and photography.

A Johnstown, Pa., native, Gore has worked in the political arena, having served as an intern for U.S. Congressman and Pitt alumnus John Murtha (PA-12) in the summer  of 2007 and, in the fall of 2006, for “PA Victory ’06,” the coordinated campaign of Governor Edward G. Rendell and Senator Robert P. Casey Jr. He was a campaign volunteer for Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and founded Students for Barack Obama at Pitt in 2007. He also was a delegate to the National College Democrats convention and served as a student advisor on college grassroots outreach on the Obama for America College Democrats Steering Committee.

In addition to pursuing his majors, Gore is an economics minor who is working on a certificate in Russian and East European Studies. He serves as an academic tutor in economics and is a resident assistant in Honors Freshmen Housing. Under a Brackenridge Summer Research Fellowship, Gore studied Russian democracy, particularly election irregularities and media bias in that nation’s 2008 presidential election.

A Pitt University Scholar, Gore serves as Student Government Board representative to the University Educational Policies Committee, won a John P. Bracken Undergraduate Political Science Award at Pitt, and was selected to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research.

A Beechview native, Mericli is interested in the sciences and humanities and has aspirations for service in the U.S. diplomatic corps. Mericli has had an internship at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, and last summer, as a National Security Education Program Boren Scholar, he continued his study of the Turkish language and began learning Persian in Istanbul.

Mericli serves as a volunteer caseworker at the Welcome Center for Immigrants and Internationals in Pittsburgh, assisting clients and certifying translations of Turkish and Spanish. He served as community interactions coordinator of the Pitt chapter of Engineers Without Borders and managed logistics for a site assessment trip to Pitt’s sustainable fish farm project in Mali last May; as campus campaign manager for Teach for America, he has encouraged other students to work for educational equity in the nation’s poorest schools.

A Pitt Chancellor’s Scholar, Mericli enjoys blues piano and guitar; studies and teaches ney, the reed flute of Ottoman court music; and plays the flute for the local band Kirik Hava.

Participation in the HIA’s core programs provides the foundation for further involvement with HIA. Upon completion of summer fellowships, participants may proceed to international internships to continue their training in human rights issues. Past fellows have used their experiences with HIA to further careers in such fields as education, civil service, journalism, law, and art.

Rachael Dizard (A&S ’06) was a Pitt 2007 HIA winner. She is now a project employee at ACTION-Housing in Pittsburgh, working on the greening of existing affordable housing units. She recently received the Root-Tilden-Kern Scholarship—a public interest scholarship for those who plan on dedicating their careers to working in public interest law—from New York University’s School of Law.

“I’m delighted that three University of Pittsburgh students will be participating in 2009 HIA Summer Fellowships; it really attests to the quality of both the education and the students at Pitt,” said Dizard. “The HIA fellowship was a challenging and enriching experience for me that has positively impacted my life in more ways than I ever expected, and I don’t doubt that it will be the same for these students.”