The Social Justice League
Rollins faculty devote their lives to making a difference in the classroom—and the world.
By Kristen Manieri
Photos by Judy Watson Tracy
Chalk it up to a burning sense of social responsibility or an unrelenting passion for a compelling cause, but this group of doers is making a dent—large and small—in the issues important to them.
Assistant Professor of
CAUSE Human rights and global poverty
THE PROBLEM “Global poverty is the leading killer of people—far more than war and violence,” Dan Chong says. “Every day, 20,000 people die silently from unnatural causes mostly related to poverty, such as a lack of clean water and nutrition as well as access to medicine.”
MAKING THE CONNECTION BETWEEN POVERTY AND HUMAN RIGHTS After completing his undergraduate degree, Chong worked with refugees in Thailand. “This was when I started to become really interested in war, peace, and human-rights issues,” says Chong, who then went on to get his master’s degree in international peace studies. “In my research, it became obvious to me that if people were dying because of a lack of basic needs, that this is a human-rights issue. Yet most human-rights organizations weren’t relating to poverty as a human-rights issue,” says Chong, who focused his Ph.D. research on understanding how we advocate for basic needs. “Why did we ignore these rights for so long, why now are we finally starting to give them attention, and how effective are our efforts? This is what I am interested in.”
HIS IMPACT “I want students to appreciate the value of international aid. I think a lot of people are cynical about it, but when we meet people who are alive because of a donation made by an individual or our government, I hope students learn that aid certainly can save lives.” Besides teaching courses about human rights and world politics, Chong leads annual field studies to emerging countries such as Thailand and Burma, where students meet with human-rights activists and also with people who are at the heart of the issue. “One of the most moving experiences we had in Thailand was visiting Burmese refugees living in a trash dump,” Chong recalls. “I had seen a lot of poverty in my life, but this was the worst I had ever seen. We were all really moved. I think there is a lot that happens by virtue of experiencing this firsthand.”
BRINGING THE CAUSE TO CAMPUS Chong is the faculty adviser for the Amnesty International Club and the One Campaign at Rollins. “Last year, one of my RCC students, Rebecca Hamilton ’14, decided to bring the Invisible Child Campaign to Rollins. She asked me to be the faculty adviser,” Chong says. “I’m so impressed by how passionate this group has been. They’ve gone on lobby trips, held campus fundraisers, and brought speakers to campus. They’ve really inspired me.”
WHY HE DOES IT Chong feels a sense of hope about the positive contributions that can be made. “In the last 30 years, the world has seen historically unprecedented gains in the livelihoods of people at the bottom of the income scale. In the 1980s, two billion people in the world were not getting their basic needs met; today, that number is one billion. Never before in the history of civilization have we pulled people out of extreme poverty at this scale. People don’t realize that our existing efforts have been really successful so far. We just need to expand that and reach that last billion people.”