Pitzer Students Win Napier Awards

In a few short months, Rachel Conrad PZ ’13 and Caitlin Watkins PZ ’13, winners of the 2013 Napier Award for Creative Leadership, will begin the social justice projects that they proposed in their Napier Fellowship applications.

The Napier Initiative is an intergenerational partnership between 5C students and the residents of Pilgrim Place, a retirement community located in Claremont for individuals who had careers in religious or nonprofit organizations. Each year, a committee of 5C faculty members and Pilgrim Place residents awards the Napier to two 5C seniors. In past years, the selection committee has chosen Claremont McKenna College and Pomona College students, but this year they selected Pitzer College students Conrad and Watkins from a pool of nine applicants. As part of the award, the seniors will receive $5,000 upon graduation and another $5,000 at the end of the summer to carry out innovative social justice initiatives.

Conrad, a Washington, D.C. native double majoring in Latin American society and environment as well as environmental analysis, will be returning to Ecuador, the site of her 2012 study abroad experience. When studying abroad, Conrad went to Ecuador with the School for International Training and participated in an ecology and conservation program, engaging in a month-long independent study with Acción Ecológica, an organization devoted to socio-environmental justice in Ecuador. While working with Acción Ecológica, Conrad made the documentary “Represados” about the water conflict in Ecuador. In doing so, she learned about the Dulcepamba watershed conflict.

This summer she will be using the funds from the Napier Award to conduct a socio-environmental study of the impacts of a hydroelectric company in the Dulcepamba region. Her intention is to provide community members with data they can use to expel the hydroelectric company from the region and reclaim their water rights.

“It’s kind of an upward battle,” Conrad said.

Watkins, an environmental analysis major from Austin, Tex., will remain in Claremont to expand upon her work with Crossroads, a nonprofit that provides support for incarcerated women. She will help develop Fallen Fruit for Rising Women, a social enterprise designed to provide women coming out of Crossroads with stable employment, job skills and training, and confidence in the workplace. Fallen Fruit for Rising Women will also help to raise awareness about Crossroads through the marketing and sale of food products made from donated produce.

Watkins’s project evolved from the Meatless Mondays food justice program at Crossroads, where she and other students cooked a meal and carried out workshops with the program’s women on Monday evenings.

Watkins said she hopes the project will someday be self-run.

“Eventually it will be run by the women, so they will be managing it and directing the social enterprise themselves as a model for people, gaining leadership, gaining entrepreneurial skills,” Watkins said.

Napier fellows receive a mentor from Pilgrim Place who shares their interests and will be able to counsel them in their respective field of service work. Watkins’s mentor, Dean Freudenberger, worked as an agricultural missionary in Africa for 40 years and has been helping her implement composting programs at San Antonio High School and at Crossroads. Conrad’s mentor, Dan Moore, and his wife, Beryl, lived in Chile for 30 years and worked in agricultural development.

“I think that if anyone has … a strong passion to realize a project, their passion is just going to get stronger through the application process because of how inspiring the Pilgrims are,” Conrad said.

Nigel Boyle, Associate Dean for Global and Local Programs at Pitzer, serves as the fellowship advisor for Pitzer students and was one of three faculty members on the selection committee for the Napier. When asked if he knew of any fellowships similar to the Napier, Boyle cited the intergenerational education component as the distinguishing feature of the Napier.

“I’m not aware of anything comparable,” Boyle said. “They’re really neat awards.”

Even those who apply for the Napier and do not end up winning the $10,000 often still complete their projects.

“I think that they all have this quality of being, to use the jargon term, ‘social entrepreneurs.’ They’re looking to accomplish things. They tend to be high-achieving, highly motivated students. They’re the sort that are going to do great things later,” Boyle said.

Watkins said that the Napier selection committee looks for this passion.

“If I were someone applying for this, I would want to know that I have to do something that I’m really passionate about because only then will your project actually make sense and fall into place,” she said.

Boyle also said that the students’ passions play a key role in the application process.

“When you’re writing your essay to try and win one of these awards, what you’ve really got to try and demonstrate too is the non-cognitive part of it, the heart, the sort of visceral desire to do something, and that’s highly particular to students. Much less so than other fellowship awards, it really needs to be something that’s authentic and comes from a passion to do something,” he said.

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