In every year since 1968, Watson Fellowships have given a select group of new college graduates the opportunity to pursue a year of personally significant, non-academic, independent inquiry and travel abroad. A Watson year is a true year (12 full months) rather than an academic year. A Watson project is not academic research in any traditional sense and cannot involve formal study at an academic institution. Rather, a Watson project must be experiential and must be of personal significance. Finally, the project must engage the Fellow in an inquiry that is founded on exposure to and engagement with new cultures.
According to the Watson Foundation:
"A Watson project may grow from an academic interest, but does not have to. Projects may be inspired by childhood interests, family traditions, unusual hobbies, special talents, personal goals, or a passionate curiosity about almost any topic."
Although each Watson project emerges from the Fellow’s pre-existing passions, it also takes her to places she has never gone before: literally, in the sense that Watsons are not allowed to travel to areas where they have already spent substantial periods of time; figuratively, in the sense that the unique challenges of a Watson year along with exposure to a variety of cultures will help Watson Fellows to come to know themselves and their internal resources better than ever before.
To fund this year, Watson Fellows receive $25,000. In addition, Fellows with federally guaranteed and institutional student loans receive an amount equal to twelve-months payment of these loans.
All Fellows are required to submit brief quarterly reports and a final report to the Foundation. They must also attend the Returning Fellows Conference in early August at the end of their Watson year.
Only current seniors may apply for Watson Fellowships. There is no age limit, and several McBride scholars have been named Watson Fellows. International students are eligible. (Though note that international students will not be allowed to spend any part of their Watson year in their home country.)
CRITERIA FOR SELECTION:
The Watson Foundation describes the selection process as “holistic.” The Foundation seeks individuals of "unusual promise" who possess “integrity, imagination, strong ethical character, intelligence, the capacity for vision and leadership, the promise of creative achievement and excellence within a chosen field, and the potential for humane and effective participation in the world community.”
These qualities should emerge from the candidate’s proposal and personal statement, from the letters of recommendation, and finally in the one-on-one interview each nominee is granted. Academic and extracurricular record is considered, but is not of primary importance. Generally, though, Watson Fellows will be strong students who have displayed initiative and dedication both in their academics and in some number of activities outside the classroom.
Finally, the proposed project must be of personal significance and must build out of a candidate's passion.
Watson Fellowship Campus Liaison:
Isabelle Barker (Assistant Dean, Director of Student Funding) 610-526-5375