Two students receive Watson fellowships

By Amy Lieberman

The Watson Foundation has awarded Zach Devlin-Foltz ’08 and Hector Pascual Alvarez ’08 2008-2009 Watson Fellowships, granting both students a $25,000 stipend for a one-year independent project conducted outside of the United States. Devlin-Foltz, an Economics and Political Science major, and Alvarez, an International Studies and Theater major, are among 48 other winners across the United States. The two were selected from a pool of 176 finalists from 48 elite private colleges.

This is Macalester’s ninth year as a participating institution and Devlin-Foltz and Alvarez are Macalester’s 10th and 11th Watson Fellows.

Devlin-Foltz’s project, ” ‘Tú no sirves!’ Sports Slang and the Meaning of Athletic Competition,” will send him to Paraguay, Venezuela, Argentina and Puerto Rico to study two of the things he likes best: sports and language. He will look at sports slang, in the context of baseball and soccer.

“It plays an important factor in society and how people think about it,” he said.

Alvarez, who hails from Alcala de Henares, Spain, will study theater in community-based performances in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and the United Kingdom.

“I’m looking at how theater can be a tool for healing communities in communities that have suffered some form of trauma or crisis,” Alvarez said of his project, “Social Acupuncture: The Theater Director in Community Based Performance.”

Alvarez said he has wanted to apply for the fellowship since freshman year and that Theater and Dance professor Beth Cleary helped him devise his proposal and put him in touch with different organizations in his selected countries.

In England, Alvarez hopes to work with a London-based organization that works with homeless people to perform Shakespeare productions. In Brazil, Alvarez will travel to Rio de Janeiro to work with a company that helps handicapped children put on musical productions.

Alvarez said that the Watson’s structure, or lack thereof, permits him to remain “in total control of my time.”

“I am able to say, ‘what do I want to do today?’ he said. “It needs to be something new for you, a stretch for you.”

Devlin-Foltz, who is from Silver Springs, Md., said his selection in countries was based on his proficiency in Spanish. Devlin-Foltz wants to become involved with different organizations, but he will also spend time in the streets, or the fields, learning the “hip slang,” he said.

“The hardest part might be explaining to people why I am there,” he said. “I’m sure they are used to people coming for more serious reasons, [but] if they are willing I would like to learn from them.”

Devlin-Foltz and Alvarez will reconvene with the other Watson fellows to present on their projects in August. After that, Devlin-Foltz said he plans on joining the military, with the hopes of eventually working in security. Alvarez said he will most likely return to Spain and hopes to work in theater.