Wellesley Nominates Four Students for 2013-2014 Thomas J. Watson Fellowships

November 27, 2012

Four seniors have been selected as the nominees for the 2013-2014 Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, a grant that funds a year of independent study and travel outside of the United States. Each year, 40 fellowships are awarded from a pool of approximately 150 nominees from the participating schools. The 2013-2014 nominees from Wellesley College are: Alice Choe, Carolyn Bonner Campbell,  Alyssa “Elle” Wibisono and Pratibha Chauhan.

“Each one of our nominees brings her own set of qualities and characteristics that being a Watson Fellow requires,” said Lauri Wardell, senior instructor in Physics laboratory and Wellesley liaison for the Watson Fellowship. “Each has her own way in which this opportunity will facilitate her growth as a person.”

Fellows typically travel to three or more countries to pursue a project that, according to the Watson website, “enhances capacity for resourcefulness, imagination, openness, and leadership, and to foster their humane and effective participation in the world community.”

Wellesley was first included in the Watson competition in 1980. Since then, 55 Wellesley women have won fellowships, according to Ellie Perkins, director of Fellowship Programs. This year, Elizabeth Gilmartin ’12 travels to South Africa, India, Bangladesh, Cambodia and the United Kingdom to learn about community efforts to help young people facing challenges as a result of various forms of discrimination. (Read Beth’s blog here).

The 2013-2014 Wellesley nominees combined seek to travel to more than a dozen different countries to pursue a variety of interests ranging from tea production to domestic violence advocacy.

In her proposal entitled “Sustainable Economic Development in the Tea Industry,” Bonner Campbell (Economics; Chinese Language & Literature, minor) looks to study the intersection of the tea industry and economic development in the United Kingdom, India, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa. If accepted as a Watson fellow, she said, “I hope to gain insight from people around the world and drink lots of tea!”

“I see the Watson Nomination as an opportunity to learn from different cultures how traditions are preserved and apply them to communities like my own,” said Pratibha Chauhan. Her proposed Watson year, entitled “Letting Go and Holding On: Stories of Migrating Traditions,” would allow her to study the mechanisms of cultural preservation from different slums around the world, and document the traditions she finds through photography and videography. She plans to travel to Peru, Brazil, Bangladesh and South Africa.

In her Watson proposal, “Domestic Violence Across Cultures,” Alice Choe (Psychology) seeks to travel to Jordan, India, East Timor and Thailand to speak with victims of and advocates against domestic violence. “Traveling to these four countries,” said Choe, “will help me understand what motivates women in different cultures to pursue different agencies as a means of escaping an abusive relationship.” She is interested in exploring the intersection of legal systems, religious beliefs and social norms in the countries she visits.

“The nomination is a step closer between me and the ocean,” said Elle Wibisono (Biological Sciences). In her proposed Watson year ("Exploring the Ocean Inside and Out: Marine Biology, Scuba Diving, and Local Expertise”) Elle would travel to the Galapagos Islands, Tahiti and Rangiroa, Palau Island and the Sipadan Islands to learn about marine species and different cultural myths surrounding the sea, and to evaluate the effects of marine and diving tourism industries. She would also scuba dive. “I would love to dive with schools of hammerhead sharks,” Wibisono said, “and if I’m really lucky, pods of dolphins and whales.”

From mid-November to late February, each of the 150 nominees will be interviewed by either the Director of the Watson Foundation or by a former Watson Fellow serving as a guest interviewer. Wellesley’s nominees were interviewed on November 13th and the winners are announced on or around March 15th.  “It’s a long waiting period,” said Wardell.

- Gabrielle Linnell, Class of 2013