Rising Senior and Brock Scholar Heather Murray is one of only 48 American students chosen to participate in this year’s Humanity in Action (HIA) fellowship programs in the United States and Europe. This May begins her fellowship in Warsaw, Poland, where she will meet fellow students, activists, professionals, and leaders from around the world as she works with international undergraduate students and recent graduates to create media and education tools that challenge hate speech.
“Receiving this award is more than a great honor. This fellowship is a chance for me to immerse myself in an atmosphere that is hyper-focused on understanding and solving the greatest crises minority groups face today. The chance to work with such a talented and dedicated group of scholars is what makes this experience stand out. None of us have the same story or experiences, but we’ve all ended up in the same place; how do our different abilities and passions converge to make a final product that helps others? How can our stories morph each others’ perceptions, challenge each others’ prejudices and assumptions? This program will be a transformative experience for me and my fellow fellows, and I can’t wait to experience it,” Murray said.
During her time at UTC, Murray has already built up an impressive resume with internships at the Lookout Mountain Conservancy and the City of Chattanooga Mayor’s Office. Her research on foster care with Dr. Morgan Cooley has been presented at numerous conferences and caught the attention of one of our state legislators.
Murray initially came across the HIA program when she was searching for activism opportunities last summer. She applied for this year’s program and described the process as “notable” after reading 100 pages of articles with topics on the power of free speech and formulating a response, writing a personal statement that had her evaluating herself and her goals, and a process of interviews with dozens of students across the US and program alumni.
“I’ve already met dozens of brilliant and driven people, and I can’t wait to meet more,” she explained.
Dean of the Honors College, Linda Frost, is excited for what this opportunity means for Murray, and for what the Brock Scholar will contribute to the fellowship.
“Heather has already started to prompt change here in Chattanooga; I am thrilled that through Humanity in Action, her view will be widened and strengthened. To say Heather is tenacious would be an understatement; to say she is passionate about this opportunity and the work it will set her on still doesn’t do justice to her energy, her intellect, and her commitment. We are thrilled for Heather; she is about to have a life-changing experience and we can’t wait to watch where it will take her,” Frost said.
The work Murray launches in Warsaw won’t end when she steps on the plane to fly home. Her fellowship will continue as she’s given a one year timeline to carry out a project of her own based on her experience and the knowledge she gains during the fellowship. For now, she knows that project will be focused on Chattanooga, but she has yet to hammer out the specifics.
Murray is on track to graduate with a BS in Accounting and minor in Criminal Justice next May. She plans to continue her education by pursuing a Master’s in Public Administration and eventually start her own non-profit focused on improving education and opportunities for high-risk students.
“I believe that education—knowledge of resources, the ability to think critically, and the confidence to ask questions and seek answers—is the only sustainable way for people from all walks of life to achieve more for themselves and their families,” Murray explained.
Humanity in Action
All fellows through HIA receive financial support for the duration of the the program. They describe their mission as:
“HIA seeks to engage younger generations in histories of resistance and to inspire them to fulfill their moral responsibilities to protect those in danger from institutionalizing violations of minority rights. It seeks to strengthen the commitment of American and European university students to democratic values and foster their knowledge of resistance to intolerance—past and present.”
In celebration of their eighteenth anniversary, HIA recently released this video.