Humanity in Action Fellowship Offers Virtual Amsterdam Experience

Spencer Goldberg hopes to engage with his virtual cohort, students and recent graduates from a variety of countries. (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

Spencer Goldberg will travel – virtually – to Amsterdam to participate in a fellowship that explores democracy, pluralism, human rights and social justice.

The three-week Humanity in Action Fellowship programs are held in Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen, Sarajevo and Warsaw, with each program tailored to its location. Fellows are asked to understand the host city’s history of injustice, its present struggles and the future of its democratic values. In each roughly 22-member cohort, fellows engage with local experts and community members, visit museums and historical sites and engage in discourse with one another and program leaders.

Goldberg, of Manalapan, New Jersey, is a rising fourth-year student at the University of Virginia double-majoring in political and social thought and philosophy. He applied for the fellowship because he appreciates its mission.

“I believe in its values: human rights, pluralism, democracy and equity,” Goldberg said. “I also want to be part of a community of people who think carefully and deeply about these values and want to spend their lives and careers advancing them.”

Goldberg will participate in the three-week virtual program starting Tuesday.

“In a normal year I would travel to Amsterdam for a program tailored specifically to the city’s unique history of injustice, its present social and political struggles and the future of its democratic values,” Goldberg said. “Unfortunately, because of COVID-19, this year’s fellowship will be virtual. But the program will still seek to maintain the same structured explorations of human rights and pluralistic, democratic societies that it has in person for so many years. My program will still bring together a transatlantic cohort and maintain a special focus on the history and contemporary contexts of Amsterdam.”

Goldberg’s cohort will attend virtual site visits, engage in practice-oriented workshops and listen to experts and activists from civil society organizations. After completing the three-week program, he will spend the next year working on an independent action project focused on promoting democratic values in his own community.

Goldberg is looking forward to engaging with his cohort, which contains students and recent graduates from the Netherlands, the United States, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece and France.

“The opportunity to study alongside an international cohort was incredibly appealing,” Goldberg said. “I wholeheartedly believe that the kind of preventative action and promotion of democratic values that HIA seeks to achieve requires a diverse collective – for collective thinking, understanding and growth. So, learning and working alongside like-minded students with diverse backgrounds from countries such as Bosnia and Herzegovina and Greece seemed like an incredible opportunity to meaningfully and effectively engage in this kind of work.”

Michael Joseph Smith, the Thomas C. Sorensen Professor and director of the Program in Political and Social Thought, appreciated Goldberg’s participation in his virtual courses.

“Spencer is an engaging, intelligent and consistently superbly prepared member of the PST third-year seminar,” Smith said. “His comments in class always seek to advance the discussion, and he has helped to make our year of online seminars full of humor and lively participation.

Nicole Eramo, an assistant vice president in the Office of the Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer, was not surprised at Goldberg’s selection for the fellowship.

“Since arriving at UVA, he has shown a keen interest in the troubled history of the University and its impact on the local community of Charlottesville and Albemarle County,” Eramo said. “He has sought opportunities to not only learn more about this history, but to find ways to get that information out to others so they can serve this community with an awareness of its complexity and struggle. I am excited for him to bring his energy and thoughtfulness to this fellowship, and for what he will bring back to UVA to enrich this place even more in his fourth year.”

“The Humanity in Action Fellowship is not necessarily for those with the highest GPA or those who have participated in many organizations, but candidates have to have energy and a willingness to be uncomfortable,’ explained Andrus G. Ashoo, director of the Office of Citizen Scholar Development, the fellowships office of UVA.

Ashoo never neglects to talk about the intellectual and emotional exhaustion that can come from participating in this fellowship program.

“It is part of our duty to be honest with our students. I’m really glad that Spencer has run toward this challenge to grapple with important questions facing humanity with people from various backgrounds. He will likely need a good rest toward the end of the summer, but this promises to be a transformational experience for him.”

“I’m not sure what this will mean for my future,” Goldberg said. “At the very least, I will join a network of more than 2,500 Senior Fellows from around the world working in government, journalism, medicine, law, education, the arts, business and grassroots action. As a senior fellow, I will have access to internship programs, study trips, grant competitions, seminars and more. But most importantly, I’m hoping that Humanity in Action will help me develop my interests and passions before I graduate and enter the next stage of my life.”

Media Contact

Matt Kelly

Office of University Communications