College nominates four for Watson Fellowship

By Sara Nelson

Macalester announced last week that it has nominated Samantha Petty ’07, Joseph Patton ’07, Kramer Gillin ’07 and Lars Johnson ’07 as finalists for the Watson Fellowship.
These four were selected from a pool of 16 Macalester applicants. The Watson Foundation will announce the winners of the fellowship in March. The Watson Fellowship offers recipients $25,000 to travel outside of the United States for a year while pursuing an independent project. Fifty students, nominated by 50 liberal arts colleges, will receive the fellowship.

Dean of Academic Programs Ellen Guyer described the ideal Watson project as “more of an exploration and [personal] experience” rather than traditional academic research. She said that earning a Watson fellowship presents students with an opportunity to be creative and investigate a passion.

“The Watson foundation wants projects that are challenging,” Guyer said. “So we have to judge feasibility versus challenge. There has to be a balance of structure and room for growth.”
Gillin’s proposed project will investigate the use of cell phones and motorized vehicles among nomadic pastoralists in Mongolia, Libya, Jordan and China. He said his aim in designing the project was to visit places where he believes such technologies are used, but in which pastoralists still maintain a nomadic lifestyle.

Petty plans to examine the use of circus arts as a way to promote social change through visiting circus schools in South Africa, Chile, Australia and Ireland. She will examine the idea of a “social circus,” which is a circus school or troupe that uses circus arts as a tool for social change by providing training in circus arts to underrepresented populations or promoting messages for change through performances.

Johnson’s tentative title for his project is “From Street Curb to Sistine Chapel: A Search for the Common Elements of Great Music.” He will visit China, Italy, Brazil and Egypt in order to examine the connection between performer and audience in different musical and cultural contexts.
Patton hopes to study public markings such as rock art, murals and grafitti in urban areas of France, Italy, Egypt, South Africa, Australia, China and Mexico. Patton will study the production of public markings in the modern landscape through placing the symbols in historical and cultural context.
The nominees will now submit their applications to the Watson Foundation and will be interviewed on campus Nov. 13.

According to Guyer, Thomas J. Watson, the founder of IBM, began the Watson Fellowship in the 1960s in order to provide opportunities for college students to travel abroad and to help broaden the horizons of young Americans.