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Fighting for Human Rights

Julia Mercer

Julia Mercer ’18 

A class on gender and reproductive rights inspired Julia Mercer ’18 to study social justice, and her summer 2016 internship at a Washington, D.C., nonprofit affirmed for her that she’s on the right path. A Clarke Forum student manager, Peddler barista and peer educator who’s also been involved as a tour guide and student intern, Mercer discusses the “life-changing” class that led her to declare a double major. She also describes the guest-lecturer who opened new avenues of thought and the internship that gave her a new perspective on global human rights.


Women’s, gender & sexuality studies and environmental studies.

Clubs and organizations:

The Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues, the Peddler, and Extended Orientation Peer Educator. I also have been involved with Tritons, Students Interested in Sustainable Agriculture and the Office of Residence Life.


John Dickinson Scholar, Dean’s List and Alpha Lambda Delta.

Favorite book:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

Favorite movie:

Easy A.

On choosing Dickinson:

To be 100 percent honest, Dickinson was not my first choice. That being said, I am endlessly happy that I ended up at Dickinson. My first year here was filled with so many great classes and people. Since then, Dickinson has provided me with opportunities to take on responsibilities, work through challenges and work toward my goals.

Favorite place on campus:

The Clarke Forum!

Favorite Dining Hall food:

Spinach spanakopita at the KOVE.

Favorite class:

My favorite class, and the one that has been the most life-changing for me, was a Reproductive Justice class I took during the second semester of my first year. The class was extremely engaging, and it taught me how to challenge notions I previously held to be true. It also inspired me to become a women’s, gender & sexuality studies major, and it shaped the direction I want my career and activism to take.

Little known hobby/talent:

I’m really good at filleting fish.

About my internship:

I interned last summer at the Fund for Global Human Rights in Washington, D.C. I was really intrigued by its unique structure; it is a hands-off nonprofit, so it doesn't directly fund work on the ground—instead, it funds grassroots organizations in the countries where it works.

What I learned through this experience:

I learned so many things! The biggest revelations were that the global attitude toward nonprofit work is becoming increasingly negative and many countries are imprisoning human rights workers. It’s a crucial time for human rights globally. I also learned that I would love to go into nonprofit work after graduation.

In a perfect world …

… everyone, regardless of gender, race, religion, sexuality, ability, age or class, would live without fear of violence, poverty or discrimination.

Most important thing I’ve learned so far:

Intersectionality. This is a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, who visited Dickinson last spring. It refers to the ways that multiple identities, such as gender, race, religion, etc., have an effect on one’s experiences. This is so relevant both to my studies and my everyday life.

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Published June 22, 2017