Emily Ross ’17 wins Watson Fellowship to study Ceramics and Geology

17 March 2017

Emily Ross ’17, a Geology and Studio Art major from Niwot, Colo., is the recipient of a prestigious Watson Fellowship for the 2017-18 school year.

Emily Ross sits on a huge striped rock
Emily Ross ’17

The Watson Fellowship provides a year of unparalleled international exploration for select graduating college seniors in any field. Ross is the 75th Watson Fellow from Carleton.

“I plan on exploring the intersection between ceramics and geology in Iceland, Italy, China, Japan, Ghana, and Chile,” Ross reports. “In Iceland, for example, artists use freshly erupted volcanic materials to make vibrant glazes. In Japan, regional geology determines differences in clay from town to town or from even from studio to studio.”

“The idea for the project came naturally out of my experience at Carleton as a double major in geology and studio art,” she explains. “I came to Carleton intending to study geology, and then took some amazing classes in ceramics and art history my sophomore year and decided to double major. Instead of being forced to choose between the two or live some secretive double life, my professors and peers in each discipline encouraged my curiosity about the connections between art and science.” 

Ross sees a strong parallel between her two disciplines. “Geology and ceramics are both very welcoming and communal disciplines, and I think there’s a mutual respect and awareness between the two, so I’m ridiculously excited to learn from ceramic artists in their studios and explore where their clay comes from.”

“Emily’s a great Carl—in some ways the embodiment of the liberal arts ideal,” says Pierre Hecker, associate professor of English. “As a double major in geology and studio art, she’s a scientist who’s got the chops to spend a recent summer doing an internship at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory while also being someone who, in her words, embraces the emotional and aesthetic sensibilities of an artist. Resisting great pressure to choose a particular path, she has instead merged her passions and forged her own. The beauty of her project is that she’s really found ways of having each discipline serve as a lens for exploring the other. I’m gratified that the Watson Foundation saw the tremendous value in that.”

“Emily will be a great ambassador for Carleton and her extraordinary combination of brains, resourcefulness, and grace under pressure will serve her well as she sets out on this grand adventure.”

Watson awardees come from private liberal arts colleges and universities across the United States. From the program’s 40 partner institutions, 149 finalists were nominated to compete on the national level from which 40 Fellows were selected. Fellows will receive $30,000 for twelve-months of travel and college loan assistance as required.

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