Two Wellesley Seniors Receive Prestigious Watson Fellowships

Two students sit in chairs in the academic quad.
April 8, 2019

Lucy Wanzer ’19 and Sophia Zupanc ’19 have been awarded Thomas J. Watson Fellowships, one-year grants of $30,000 that support 12 months of travel in pursuit of a dream project outside of the United States. This year, 41 college seniors were selected to join the organization’s 51st class, the most competitive in the fellowship’s history.

“The Watson Fellowship is an extraordinary opportunity for a graduating senior to spend a year pursuing personal, purposeful travel, inquiry and growth abroad,” said Elizabeth Mandeville ’04, interim executive co-director and director of exploration and experiential learning at Wellesley.  

Wanzer, a geosciences major and canoeing enthusiast, will study how fishermen, conservationists, and boat builders in island communities in Greece, Japan, Indonesia, and New Zealand connect with the ocean. “I have been interested in all facets of this project my whole life, but it wasn’t until I decided to apply for the Watson that I sat down and really thought about how my personal and professional interests intersected,” said Wanzer. “I never thought that my love for canoeing could be connected to my interest in oceanography.”

Wanzer conducted research for her senior thesis this past summer during a three-week expedition aboard a scientific research vessel out of Reykjavik, Iceland.

Zupanc, an economics major, will explore how aspects of a “dignified death” are socially and medically constructed, through travels across Greece, India, Australia, New Zealand, and the Netherlands. “Beliefs about death and dying shaped by the culture, institutions, and norms under which an individual lives, though what actually happens at the end of life is often dictated by the local medical institutions, available resources, and the socioeconomic/political climate,” she said.

Zupanc’s interest in the subject grew out of her academic work in health-related courses at Wellesley and a research position she held at Dana-Farber’s Department of Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care. “One of my closest supporters/mentors is a palliative care social worker, and at that time she said to me, ‘Once you get into end-of-life care, you may never get out,’” said Zupanc.

Kate Dailinger, program director for fellowships at Wellesley, said the proposals by Wanzer and Zupanc represent the broad spectrum of research opportunities available to Wellesley students. “Every year I am inspired by the range of fascinating and creative proposals put forward by so many Wellesley students, and every year the committee [at Wellesley] has a very hard time narrowing the field to just four nominees,” said Dailinger.

Students who are interested in learning more about the Watson Fellowship are encouraged to attend a student panel and information session hosted by the Wellesley Career Education fellowships team on April 10 from 12:45–1:40 pm in Founders Hall, room 121.