By Jakob Wartman
The Watson Foundation has awarded Sneh Rao ?TM06 and Chloe Poynton ?TM06 2006-2007 Watson Fellowships, providing both Rao and Poynton the opportunity to pursue a one-year independent project outside the United States. The Fellowship grants Rao, an International Studies, Latin American Studies and Hispanic Studies major, and Poynton, an Anthropology and International Studies major, a $25,000 stipend and money designated for the repayment of student loans.All graduating seniors who attend participating institutions are eligible to apply for a Watson Fellowship nomination, regardless of major or post-collegiate plans, provided they have a proposal and a year to spend on their project.Rao and Poynton are among 48 other winners across the United States. The two were selected from a pool of 176 finalists from 48 elite private colleges.Each participating college is able to nominate up to four students. Interested students apply and Macalester brings the number of applicants down to 10. From there, Macalester interviews the candidates and narrows the field down to the four nominated for the Watson Fellowship, Rao said.Nishad Avari ?TM06 and Courtney Dicmas ?TM06 were Macalester?TMs other nominees for the Fellowship.?oeThe Macalester interview with [Dean of Academic Programs Ellen Guyer] and the Watson committee was much tougher than the Watson interview, which besides one curveball question was just a chat,?? Poynton said.This is Macalester?TMs seventh year as a participating institution and Rao and Poynton are Macalester?TMs ninth and 10th Watson Fellows. The Fellowship is designed for an independent study where Watson Fellows must create, execute and evaluate their own projects. A Fellowship year is not meant for a 12 months dedicated exclusively in a training course or volunteer work, which is the reason Watson Fellows do not affiliate with an academic institution, The Watson Fellowship website said. This is Macalester?TMs seventh year as a participating institution and Rao and Poynton are Macalester?TMs ninth and 10th Watson Fellows. The Fellowship is designed for an independent study where Watson Fellows must create, execute and evaluate their own projects. A Fellowship year is not meant for 12 months dedicated exclusively to a training course or volunteer work, which is the reason Watson Fellows do not affiliate with an academic institution, The Watson Fellowship website said. Rao?TMs intended research, titled ?oeDemocratizing Sex Work, Rights and Space,?? will examine the way in which sex workers organize for economic rights and social and physical space by observing established, community-based rights and advocacy groups. Rao will accomplish his project by traveling to Argentina, South Africa, Ecuador and Hong Kong.?oeI?TMm most looking forward to Hong Kong,?? Rao said. ?oeAll my travels I have had a certain in, knowing the language and culture. Hong Kong will provide the biggest challenge for me.?? Poynton?TMs project, ?oeUprooted Lives: Aid Workers and Their Dedication to Refugee Relief,?? will focus on the global structure that supports refugees and the aid workers who dedicate their lives to serve uprooted populations. Poynton hopes to complete her project by understanding the layers of help and gaining a perspective from refugees and the aid workers. Poynton will complete her project with travel to Switzerland, Ethiopia, Thailand, Australia, and Sweden.Rao and Poynton both have experience in their respective research proposals but will face language and cultural challenges in accomplishing their goals. ?oeI am hoping to work for an NGO [after being a Watson Fellow] with programs that are doing refugee relief, like Doctors Without Borders, UNHCR,?? Poynton said. ?oeWhat?TMs so great about the Watson is it will let me make contacts all over the world.??Macalester graduate and current Watson Fellow Christopher Fletcher ?TM05 is currently in McLeod Ganj, India completing his project on the Tibetan Diaspora and exploring how Tibetans assimilate and adapt to their host countries while preserving their cultural heritage.?oeI think a Watson Fellowship provides most fellows with what is likely the most challenging and rewarding year of their life, to date. For me, my year thus far has been a series of ups and downs,?? Fletcher said in an email. ?oeThere are days in which my project is going full steam and I feel on top on the world and incredibly lucky to be where I am, however, there are also other days where my project is at a standstill and all I want to do is go home.?? ?oeHaving said that, it is a fabulous opportunity in experiential education,?? Fletcher continued. ?oeI wish it was not a prize awarded to a select few, but instead required for all students attending University in the U.S. as part of their basic education.??