Six Claremont Students Awarded Prestigious Watson Fellowships

Next year, six current 5C seniors will be traveling the world and exploring their own research topics thanks to the $25,000 Watson Fellowship they were each awarded this March. Haley Brown PZ ’13, Efa Kabba PO ’13, Hannah Groshong HM ’13, Dustin Zubke HM ’13, Melissa Margolis SC ’13, and Priscilla Bassett SC ’13 will be working on independent projects abroad.

Brown plans to study improvised theater in Canada, India, Italy, and Brazil, attending performances and festivals and becoming involved in the various communities that surround different types of improvisation. More than just acting, she wants to study “community and the basic interactions between people,” the heart of which she believes to be improvisation.

After completing her Watson time, Brown remains open to doing a bit of improvisation herself.

“Part of the reason I like improv is that I’m a very moment-to-moment person. I’ve never had the easiest time answering the ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ question. I don’t know where the Watson will take me, but one of my quiet dreams is to create a traveling caravan improv group, so we’ll see where that takes me.”

Kabba will travel to Germany, Denmark, Singapore, Japan, and Canada, studying what she calls “interactive, digital-physical environments and experiences.” Kabba explained that she is interested in technology that blurs the line between the physical and virtual.

“For most of my life, whether through theater, singing, writing, graphic design, or film, I’ve loved sharing stories and also experiencing them. But most of the time, when one experiences ‘stories’ it’s really a one-way street. You are a spectator, and you take the information and create meaning from it—that’s the traditional model,” Kabba wrote in an e-mail to TSL. “But with interactive technologies, specifically the kind I’m concerned with, the ‘spectator’ or ‘user’ has the agency to directly influence the experience. I think that’s a beautiful progression.”

After the Watson, she finds herself in a similar situation to Brown.

“I’m hoping the contacts I make during the Watson year will lead somewhere. I’m really about taking life one step at a time. The Watson is the only thing on my immediate horizon,” Kabba wrote.

Groshong will be looking at special needs inclusion, specifically the transition into adulthood, in other countries. She will be traveling to Japan, Jordan, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, and possibly China. Inspired by her experience with her younger sister, Bailey, who has Down syndrome, she wants to find out “where these individuals live, where they work, what sort of meaningful opportunities these societies create to include these individuals in their daily lives.”

Beyond that, she hopes to look at different special needs policies and the relationship between advocacy organizations and governments.

“Learning and experiencing how other places include individuals with special needs will give me some good ideas to bring back and just be aware of as part of my sister’s life. Apart from that, there’s so much that I probably can’t even fathom right now.”

After the Watson, she intends to go to graduate school to study technology and policy.

Zubke will be studying solar power and the solar industry in Germany, Spain, Australia, China, and India. He primarily wants to focus on the confluence of government policy, business practices, and customer satisfaction, looking at the various states of industry development in each country.

Post-Watson, he likely wants to work in the solar industry.

“I’ve always been interested in water recycling as well. Long-term, I think it’d be cool to have a solar/water company, try to unite those things. I don’t know if I could, but we’ll see,” Zubke said.

Margolis plans to explore how minority audiences infected with HIV experience “edutainment” and participate in HIV activism through grassroots alternative arts movements. She will travel to Botswana, Lesotho, the Netherlands, and Thailand.

Having always been interested in DIY media, and experiencing the firsthand effects of HIV among her community in Chicago, Margolis seeks to bring the two together in her project. She said she sees medical school and HIV/AIDS education in her future.

“Post-Watson I want to go to medical school so I can reach my ultimate goal of improving the healthcare system for gender non-conforming individuals. The experiences I will gain during my Watson year will be directly applicable to my future plans. Engaging in queer communities and participating in their alternative HIV/AIDS media will be a large portion of my trip and will hopefully guide me in my future practice,” Margolis wrote in an e-mail to TSL.

Bassett will travel to Panama, Peru, Botswana, Finland, and South Korea to study how woven arts, particularly in indigenous communities, are connected to current issues of social and environmental well-being. She declined to comment.

During the 12 months of the fellowship, the fellows are prohibited from returning to the United States, regardless of what may happen during their travels. Co-chair of the Scripps College Watson faculty committee Susan Rankaitis emphasized the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity the Watson provides.

“To graduate from college and spend a year on an open-ended quest trying to answer a question, to see places that you’ve always wanted to see and explore things, it’s just unbelievable,” she said. “When in one’s life do you get an opportunity like that?”

After receiving applications from students, each of the 40 participating colleges nominates a small number of students to the national applicant pool to compete for 40 Watson Fellowships. After that, a Watson director visits each college to personally conduct hour-long interviews.

There are currently three 5C graduates abroad on their Watson projects: Jeep Srisuknimit HM ’12, Dean Pospisil PZ ’12, and Gabe Loewinger PZ ’12.

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