The Quest | The Free Press of Reed College

Reedies Vie For Watson Fellowship

Clockwise from bottom left: Claire Tomforde-Garner, Adrienne Wise, Lucy Bellwoood, and D’nae Henderson, all Class of 2012

By this time next year, one of Reed’s four Watson Fellowship nominees could be traveling around the world, pursuing their passion with a budget of $25,000. The Fellowship, sponsored by the Thomas J. Watson Foundation, supports students of promise “a year of independent, purposeful exploration and travel,” according to the foundation’s website. It has been three years since a Reedie won the travel fellowship, and Lucy Bellwood ’12, Claire Thomforde-Garner ’12, D’nae Henderson ’12, and Adrienne Wise ’12 are hoping that this will be their year.

In the words of Wise, “the Watson is unique because it’s not academic.” The foundation’s rules are relatively simple. “You must leave the U.S. for 12 months… you should be challenged by your project yet it should be feasible… returning to places you’ve studied or lived before is usually not a good idea… you can propose a project on almost any topic” and “you need not be an expert on you project, but you should be well informed about it.” Bellwood noted that “they spend a bunch of time defining what the Watson is not and not what it is. I guess it’s kind of like the Honor Principle—defining it would kill it.”

Like the other candidates, Studio Art major Bellwood spent about four months drafting up her project, which revolves around her love for comics.  She will travel through Russia, Croatia, Switzerland, Germany, Latvia, Netherlands and Portugal, delving into the underground art and comic communities through a series of festivals. Opposed to the American view of art as a solitary act, many of these communities view the artistic process as a communal action. Lucy describes the practice of making a scribbling sketch and then hanging it on the wall. “That’s hard for me,” she said. “I’m classically trained and I like clean lines… this project scares the shit out of me.” She doesn’t speak the language of any country she will visit, so she hopes to use her art as an “interpretive language.” Throughout her adventures, she will also force herself to work every day on a drawn travelogue. (For more on Lucy’s art, see page 4. To read about Lucy’s thesis, see page 7.)

Claire Thomforde-Garner’s project also launches off from her academic focus (Theatre-Dance), but it will land her far away from her thesis desk. She plans to visit Indonesia, Cambodia, Australia, Zimbabwe, and India in order to compare traditional indigenous dance forms with those being practiced in urban companies. She has targeted indigenous groups in each country that “use dance as a way of praying, communicating, educating, or storytelling.” She added that “all of these countries are very aware of globalization and preserve [their traditions] by integrating rather than isolating…There is a lot of devaluing of traditional dances in anthropological and dance studies, and I want to reevaluate how indigenous and traditional cultures influence contemporary dance.”

The artistic question that drives Adrienne Wise’s proposal is how theatrical elements can be incorporated in progressive circus troupes. After practicing aerials, particularly tissue (the hanging ribbon that people climb and hang from in the quad) for years, the Psychology major decided to try to study with circus companies in the UK, Spain and Argentina. The groups she has chosen “are more modern. They incorporate character elements to convey meaning. There’s more of a story instead of just saying, ‘here’s an act and here’s another act.’” Wise will attend various circus schools, “some that are more prestigious, and some that are looser with more of an artistic focus—more experimental and less technical.” Though she did not originally plan to apply for the fellowship, she had always planned to take some time to train before graduate school. When she discovered the Watson, she thought: “Whoa, so I could get paid to do that.”

History-Literature major D’nae Henderson conceived of her project on Valentine’s Day of her sophomore year when she was writing a paper about the ethics of Ecuadorian rose cultivation for a History seminar. She had originally taken up gardening “out of a feeling of rootlessness” after a childhood in a military family. She decided that, among plants, “roses in particular are the master species” and their ethical implications further piqued her interest. So gradually she devised a Watson proposal to work at rose gardens in Australia, India, Ecuador, and France, learning cultivating techniques while examining each country’s industry. The final destination, Ecuador, will be the “capstone” of her travels as she compares the farm Novato Roses, which specializes in organic and fair trade techniques, with other less humane and environmentally sustainable farms. Her project’s overarching ethical question is “how can humans’ relations with evil teach us to be peaceful and loving with each other?”

“Writing a Watson proposal is a moment of introspection and reflection,” Henderson noted. “Even if you don’t get it, it’s still worthwhile.” Bellwood was rather less subtle in her endorsement. “There should be more people applying,” she said. “At Reed there’s a whole lot of up here thinking,” pointing to her head, “and not a lot of down here thinking,” pointing to her heart. “The Watson allows for a synthesis of those types of thought.”

Printed: 11/17/11


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