Two Carleton Seniors Earn Prestigious Watson Fellowships

19 March 2012

NORTHFIELD, Minn. –– Carleton College students Gracie Ogilby ’12 (Belmont, Mass.) and Niki Tomita ’12 (Redwood City, Calif.) earned two of the 40 fellowships from the Thomas J. Watson Foundation.

Carleton now has 19 Watson Fellowship award winners over the last 14 years and was one of 12 institutions to have two or more winners this time, as Amherst College, California Institute of Technology, Davidson College, Hendrix College, Haverford College, Middlebury College, Pitzer College, Rice University, Sewanee, Wheaton College, and Whitman Colleges also had a pair of students receive fellowships.

The fellowships, awarded to college seniors to pursue their unique passion or dream for a year of independent exploration and travel outside the United States, are picked from select private liberal arts colleges and universities. This year, from over 700 candidates, 147 finalists were nominated to compete on the national level from which the 40 fellows were selected. Each fellow will receive $25,000 for twelve-months of travel and exploration.

This year’s Watson Fellows come from 15 states and seven countries and exhibit a broad range of academic specialty, socio-economic background, and life experience. As the 44th class of Watson Fellows, they will traverse 74 countries, exploring topics from neuroscientific art to beekeeping, from earth’s extreme life to Asian modern dance, from orphanages to ocean acidification, from youth activism to astronomy.

Ogilby, a political science major, plans to travel to South Africa, India, Liberia, and Nicaragua. “The human voice has the incredible power to engage, to inspire, and to move listeners to action, particularly nonviolent action,” Ogilby said. “I will work alongside women harnessing the power of their own voices in order to change their communities. I will join women’s activist organizations in South Africa, India, Liberia, and Nicaragua and learn how women from different cultures use the spoken word to spread their messages, mobilize their supporters and promote nonviolence.” Her project title is “Breaking the Silence: An Exploration in Women’s Oratory and Activism.”

Tomita, a political science and international relations major, is traveling to Namibia, Thailand, Morocco, and Ecuador. “Shame, anger, pride, or joy? I will use the Special Olympics as a gateway into understanding varying perceptions of intellectual disabilities around the world,” Tomita said. “I will take advantage of my language and coaching experience to meet the athletes and their families so that I can better appreciate the cultural climates in Thailand, Namibia, Morocco, and Ecuador.” Her project is titled “Following the Torch: Around the World with Special Olympics.”

The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program was established in 1968 by the children of Thomas J. Watson, Sr., the founder of International Business Machines Corp., and his wife, Jeannette K. Watson, to honor their parents’ long-standing interest in education and world affairs. The Watson Foundation regards its investment in people as an effective long-term contribution to the global community.

In the history of the program, over 2,700 Watson Fellows have taken this challenging journey. A Watson Year provides fellows an opportunity to test their aspirations and abilities and develop a more informed sense of international concern. Fellows have gone on to become college presidents and professors, CEOs of major corporations, MacArthur “genius” grant recipients, politicians, artists, lawyers, diplomats, doctors, journalists, innovators and researchers across a wide range of sciences and engineering disciplines.

To see the winners and their project descriptions, visit the Watson Fellowship website.

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