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2012-2013 FELLOWSHIP AWARDEES AUTOBIOGRAPHIES

Daniela Anderson, Bard College
A Bard College Biology major with a focus in biomedical studies, Daniela has been passionate about health for most of her life. She is inspired by her work as an EMT, ER volunteer, and cancer biology researcher. Most inspiring for Daniela was her experience learning about leprosy in the Shanti Sewa Griha clinic in Nepal. Moved by her time in the clinic, she founded the Bard Leprosy Relief Project, biked across the US raising awareness and funds for her project, and designed and organized a library-building project in the leprosy eco-village her project supports in Nepal.

Miyuki Baker, Swarthmore College
Miyuki is a resident of the place where circles overlap. As a queer, multi-racial/lingual female mixed-media artist, she is happiest when working with people who embrace intersectionality. On campus, Miyuki is an editor of Overlaps Magazine, cuts hair, is a Student Academic Mentor and leads two art groups. In Philly, she organizes with hotpot!, a queer Asian group, which she discovered after starting the website Asian, Gay and Proud. The Watson is an opportunity for her to join the movement to create a worldwide network of queer artists.

Maya Barlev, Haverford College
As an astrophysics major, Maya is continually inspired by our unique place within the context of the Universe. Simultaneously, she loves working with children, and has done so at summer camps, in tutoring sessions, and in schools. The potential for the night sky to inspire us and unite us led Maya to an internship with the Universe Awareness Project, an international effort to "inspire every child with our wonderful cosmos." She hopes that by traveling to locations around the globe and asking children about the stars, she will be able to broaden her knowledge of both education and astronomy.

Sylvia Barrows, Sewanee: The University of the South
A daughter and granddaughter of teachers, Blair Barrows grew up surrounded by learning. Her passion for education stems from her experiences student-teaching and volunteering in local schools around her University. Blair participates in numerous community service projects, which led to her receiving SCAC Character and Community Female Athlete of the Week. Deeply impacted by her internship with Floortime Atlanta, where she worked with children with developmental disabilities, she became inspired to pursue a career in special education. A four-year letter winner, Blair can also be found on the volleyball court, where she served as a captain.

Wyatt Blankenship, Hendrix College
Though one might find Dillon contra dancing, competing in triathlons, or leading ecology labs, his mind is never far from the apiary of the Hendrix Beekeeping Society, of which he is the president. A Biology and Environmental Studies double-major from Arkansas, Dillon loves bees and has conducted research at Oregon State University and in his home state to better understand the human-bee interface and implications of declining populations. Working at an urban farm and the Ozark Natural Science Center he has shared the value of honeybees with many people and is excited to study traditional beekeeping in his first major excursion abroad.

Peter Buhler, California Institute of Technology
Peter is currently a Geology major at Caltech. Cross-country trips to national parks as a child began his fascination with rocks, a fascination that has led him to discovering ancient lakes on Mars and presenting his findings at the Mars Science Laboratory landing site workshops. Peter is also passionate about engaging with people; he has worked as a counselor for children who are victims of domestic abuse, ministers to homeless in Providence and Skid Row, and is a peer counselor. He speaks Spanish and hopes one day to become an astronaut or a geology professor.

Eric Chang, California Institute of Technology
At the age of 11, Eric was inspired by The Diversity of Life to protect the environment. As a freshman at Caltech, he spearheaded the effort to construct a themed Tokyo skyline set and studied at Cambridge University his junior year to learn about sustainable building. Following England, he travelled to France where he fell in love with Paris and returned the following summer on a Bishop Fellowship. A mechanical engineering major, Eric plans to design and integrate sustainable principles into our everyday built environment.

Jamie Drillette, Colorado College
Growing up in the heart of the Bible Belt, Jamie's values and beliefs were heavily shaped by the Christian surroundings of her childhood. Her interest and experience in education is rooted in her own multifarious education. Jamie went to a public elementary school, was home-schooled for three years, spent middle school and high school in a private Christian school, and currently attends Colorado College, where she studies political science. She has taught ESL in local elementary schools for almost a year, and looks forward to pursuing a career in international law and public policy.

Carson Duffy, Rhodes College
As a Bonner Scholar and Co-Moderator of the Kinney Community Service Program, Carson is a leader on campus and representative of Rhodes College to the Memphis community. She holds student positions on the Community Integrated Education Steering Committee and the Fellowship Committee and has held positions within many off-campus organizations including local schools, community centers, youth facilities, and grassroots organizations. Carson is fascinated by the process of community building - relating to the dynamics within a group of people and as it seeks to connect disparate communities to one another. At heart she is a leader and peacemaker.

Zach Duffy, Whitman College
The son of two human resources professionals and grandson of a mediator, labor politics run through Zach's blood. It's no surprise, then, that his last three internships - at Campus Progress, the Jerusalem-based Ethiopian National Project, and the AFL-CIO - have centered on youth employment issues. On campus, Zach is engaged in policy work as a student government senator and president of the Whitman branch of the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network. He is a Drum Major Institute Scholar and a Truman Scholarship finalist. He is currently researching job-training programs in Walla Walla, Washington for his senior thesis.

Charlotte Fagan, Macalester College
A Geography major at Macalester College, hailing from the smallest state in the union, Charlotte Fagan dedicated much of her college experience to bike organizing. Biking intersects with her interests in public space, feminism, and diversity in tangible ways that help her understand organizing people towards societal change. Charlotte took an unusual path through college, taking a year off and moving to Quito, Ecuador to work and organize different women's bike organizations, including starting a feminist bike collective, in the hilliest biking terrain she ever encountered. Her Watson project continues this interest in women's bike movements.

Elizabeth Gilmartin, Wellesley College
As a dyslexic who encountered great difficulties learning to read until she found her way into an innovative school for the learning disabled, Beth believes in the power of education to transform the opportunities of disadvantaged people. During an internship at the Dandelion school in Beijing working with migrant children who face inordinate barriers to acquiring an education, she became inspired to seek out other exceptional learning communities around the world that are dedicated to finding the best strategies for improving the lives of some of the most vulnerable members of the next generation.

Adam Goldberg, Wheaton College
Violence. Adam grew up around it, yet did not know how to make sense of it. Pursuing knowledge that resonated, Adam created a major at Wheaton College called Conflict & Social Change, incorporating sociology, political science, economics and psychology. Wishing to stimulate, challenge and enrich the campus community, he founded a dialogue based club to explore Middle Eastern topics. With his experience as a teacher, social activist, dancer, musician and student leader, Adam is known for getting things done. In the last few years he has studied Buddhism, finding that it presents answers to the deepest questions posed by conflict.

Spencer Gulbronson, Hamilton College
As a mathematics major at Hamilton College, Spencer always believed in the power of math as a tool for understanding and conceptualizing the world. Through her involvement in the Young Peoples Project and as a site coordinator for a tutoring program, she teaches math to inner-city students and realizes the importance of math in providing equal opportunity. Spencer has conducted computer science research in Human Computer Interactions and Security Biometrics, and has researched fire patterns through statistical data modeling. On campus, she works as a peer tutor, computer science teaching assistant, member of tech crew, and radio DJ.

Audrey Gyurgyik, Davidson College
Raised between France and the United States, Audrey has always experienced the itch to travel. She spent a gap year in Nepal in which she founded a school in a remote mountain village. A theatre major at Davidson College, her fascination with acting led her to perform everywhere from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts to a Nepalese television sitcom. A concurrent interest in Eastern spirituality led her to explore Thai massage, Reiki, Toumo, and Anusara Yoga in various settings. She was awarded a John M. Belk scholarship based on academic and extracurricular achievements in both local and global communities.

Erin Islo, Haverford College
Erin has always loved being around children, from working as a tutor to learning French from children who recently moved to America. Her interest in philosophy has given her the chance to travel from Boston to Transylvania, and has provided endless opportunities for rediscovering herself and the world she lives in. A summer in Romania studying post-communist corruption and volunteering with children has given an urgency to her desire to experience life at orphanages around the world. Her project will unite these two passions as she explores the social and political space of orphans in different cultures.

Romina Istratii, Bates College
A precarious childhood in poverty made Romina vow that she would create a better life for her family and those who suffered around her. Since then she has dedicated her life to understanding poverty and the ways to its moderation. A triple major in Economics, Politics and Chinese, her thesis investigates aspects of resource scarcity around the world. The Watson project is the result of this multi-faceted academic learning, combined with a Freeman Fellowship in Taiwan, a Stangle Grant in Economics and Law, and joint projects with the Agricultural Policy Analysis Center at the University of Tennessee.

Lilia Kilburn, Amherst College
At age 10, Lilia blushed just thinking about public speaking; last year, she competed in the World Debating Championships in Botswana. Her hard-won love of speech has led her to make films with Israeli and Palestinian students, to conduct an ethnographic study of an improv troupe, to collaborate with young entrepreneurs in Uganda, and, as a Bonnie Emory Research Fellow, to interview transgendered individuals about their experiences in speech therapy. She has showcased her own and others' artistic and written work from the helm of two college publications, and has painted two murals with the hope of creating many more.

Gabriel Loewinger, Pitzer College
Gabe studies neuroscience at Pitzer College. Having had close friends succumb to drug addiction, he has been motivated for over eight years to learn about the causes and treatments for substance abuse. Whether conducting a neuropharmacology study of his own design, training in an acupuncture technique that alleviates heroin withdrawal, or empirically researching the relationship between college alcohol policies and student drinking behavior, his passion for this subject has led him to pursue this field from a multidisciplinary perspective. His experiences have underscored the importance of exploring a wide range of treatment philosophies to answer his questions about drug addiction.

William Meadows, Lawrence University
The product of a global childhood living on and exploring rivers, Will has always had an intense interest in people and places. His passion for building and paddling canoes became both a metaphor and a vehicle for this discovery. A student of environmental science, he has led environmental projects and movements in sustainable energy at Lawrence University, served as a leader in a Sierra Leone-based NGO, and campaigned for indigenous environmental rights in Latin America. He has also been a Wilderness Ranger on Oregon's Rogue River. Will recently built his first canoe along Wisconsin's Fox River under the guidance of a local expert.

Iraimi Mercado, Wheaton College
A Sociology major at Wheaton College, Iraimi emigrated from the Dominican Republic when she was five. At an early age she experienced homelessness and found refuge in the YMCA. A United Way Courage Award recipient, she has spoken at YMCA meetings, in classrooms, and at the Task Force to End Homelessness. A youth mentor for five years, Iraimi created a program for high school juniors, providing them with college guidance; motivating them to achieve academic excellence. Being a mentor for children gave her a deeper understanding of her power to change lives and a passion to help others.

Wadzanai Motsi, Grinnell College
The third of five children born to self-employed parents in Zimbabwe, Wadzanai Motsi is an International Relations major at Grinnell College in Iowa. She conducted a ten week research project assessing the relationship between democracy and development in six African states, solidifying her passion for big "P" politics. An active community member, she is a member of the women's varsity tennis team, led a service trip to Nashville, TN, and serves on multiple college committees. She is currently the VP for Academic Affairs for Student Government at Grinnell, and hopes to return to Africa after her studies.

Grace Ogilby, Carleton College
With one of her first words as "no!" Grace was well on her way to debating by the age of 1. Since then, she has used her love of public speaking on forensics and mock trial teams, and as a student Senator, a Resident Assistant, and the President of her Rugby team at Carleton College. A Political Science Major, she has worked at the Carter Center in Atlanta, GA and her Congressman's Office to understand how politics can make the world a safer, more inclusive, and more peaceful place.

Lindsay Olsen, Williams College
The daughter of a commercial fisherman, Lindsay's childhood was defined by the ocean. Her role models were the quirky, eccentric fishermen of her small Alaskan town, and she learned first-hand the importance of community among those whose careers depend on the ocean. At 15 she began to deckhand for her father, and worked on various commercial fishing operations in Alaska for the past seven summers. Her love for the water encouraged her to join the crew team at Williams College, winning two NCAA championships. A history major, her Watson combines her passions for fishing and people as she investigates fishing communities across the globe.

Cheng Peng, Vassar College
Art has always been an intrinsic part of Cheng's life. He started painting at the age of three and playing the piano when he was ten. In high school he was a devoted chorus and rock singer and since then has also been a filmmaker. All of these artistic engagements lead him to dance - the art of image and sound, time and space. For Cheng, dance is not only about passion, but also a deep and quiet love. He dances because expressing with his body without any external medium, connects him most sincerely to himself and his audience.

Rachel Petersen, Rice College
Rachael Petersen, a self-proclaimed feminist-environmentalist dedicated to social justice, splits her time volunteering as a Spanish interpreter in Ben Taub General Hospital and directing the Rice Women's Resource Center. An Anthropology and Environmental Policy double-major at Rice University, Rachael's academic interests collided when she attended the COP15 Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen and focused on indigenous peoples rights. This work transitioned into an internship with the Environmental Defense Fund in Washington, D.C. She has researched the social impact of wind energy development in rural Oaxaca, Mexico, a project which was awarded an NSF grant in 2011.

Laura Podd, Hendrix College
Born in Dallas, TX, Laura Podd is a hearing-impaired and learning-disabled English major from Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas. She has always been interested in issues of disability, and in college tutored dyslexic children in reading during her summers. Her interest was particularly sparked by a paper she wrote junior year about the disempowering nature of the prosthesis in Samuel Beckett's Molloy, and she hopes to continue working in the field of disability studies after finishing her Watson. An avid reader, she is working her way through the complete works of William Shakespeare.

Dean Pospisil, Pitzer College
A major in neuroscience and art, Dean has always enjoyed drawing and wondering about sensation. He made bigger drawings, starting a mural program in East LA, and thought more about sensation independently researching the music-language connection by studying visual linguistic cues. He loves to make devices and programs that attempt to re-imagine our relationship to perception: a vibrating body suit that maps music onto a dancers body, a music visualiser that makes music appear to be spoken. He hopes to continue to explore these types of spaces within the context of some incredible artistic traditions around the world.

Yiyuan Qin, Colby College
Yiyuan Qin has sailed the tributaries of life from home in southern China to Colby College in Maine and many other parts of the world. At Colby, she devotes her passion to playing the violin, photographing Maine's landscapes, and crafting maps while collaborating with her professor to save the south China tigers. Yiyuan's commitment to environmentalism emerged from witnessing the disheartening changes in wetland systems at home and around the world. She aspires to continue her journey to help turn the tide for a shared future.

Zaheena Rasheed, Middlebury College
Zaheena grew up in Male, Maldives, under the dictatorship of Maumoon Abdul-Gayoom. During a gap year in 2006, she became a human rights activist, working with NGOs and youth movements for detainee rights, democracy and electoral rights. She filed and won the country's first civil rights case, suing the government for wrongful dismissal. She worked as a journalist during Maldives' first multi-party elections, and went on to intern with the first democratically elected president's Press Office. Zaheena hopes to explore how people use nonviolent action all over the world, in order to learn skills and gain inspiration to inform her future activism.

Ellen Richmond, Amherst College
Growing up with a parent in the Army, Ellen frequently moved around the world. The restlessness that this lifestyle inculcated in her is reflected in her academic pursuits as an English, French, and Interdisciplinary major who intends to become a doctor, but it also gave her a unique cultural perspective as an American both outside and within foreign communities. A passion for remote landscapes led Ellen to question the relationship between land and identity. By writing about how pastoral communities view their relationship to extreme environments, she hopes to gain a better sense of her own place in the world.

Aaron Rutz, Sewanee: The University of the South
For Aaron, life is actually a stage. Since early adolescence, he has explored dramatic possibilities from performance and technical work to the roles of director and dramaturg. Drama is his lens for exploring the breadth of the liberal arts tradition, whatever main-stage show he is directing. Spending his summers in intentional Christian communities confirmed his commitment to fostering mutual relationships and invigorated his life in theatre, the most communal art. Activities further supporting this lifestyle are the Anglican University Choir, dormitory Proctorship, and inter-generational English Bell Ringing.

Veerasak Srisuknimit, Harvey Mudd College
A chemistry major at Harvey Mudd College, Jeep is also a President of their 40-year-old unicycling club. As a freshman who had never seen a unicycle in his home country of Thailand, he initially wondered whether he could ride the strange one-wheeled vehicle farther than a meter. Now he can ride more than thirty miles in a day, backwards, and up stairs. A literal vehicle for explaining physics, chemistry and myriad scientific principles he plans to earn a Ph.D. with a full scholarship from the Thai government and become a university professor in Thailand, where he hopes to teach chemistry and start a unicycling club.

Maeve Sutherland, Ursinus College
Maeve's love of art reaches out from a not-so-hidden, middle-of-herself place. After art internships at Plymouth Meeting Friends School and the Montgomery County Cultural Center, she saw the power of art as an illuminating force - a medium of understanding. She believes in the goodness of creation in all its forms, holding such varied credits as the prestigious Creative Writing Scholarship at Ursinus and cardboard horse puppeteer in an experimental theatre troupe. Because of her Quaker roots, Maeve is inspired to live with pacifist groups during her Watson year, using art to bring their ideas to a wider audience.

Niki Tomita, Carleton College
Lucky enough to have a brother with Down syndrome, Niki focuses on Eric's abilities, rather than disabilities, which are particularly obvious through sports. This led her to volunteer with Special Olympics for most of her life; she has coached Northfield's S.O. basketball team for four years. Named the MIAC 2010 Soccer Player of the Year, Niki co-captains her varsity soccer and club Frisbee teams. She volunteered in Nicaragua with Amigos de las Americas, lived in Japan for two summers, and speaks Spanish, French, some Arabic and ASL. An International Relations major Niki also works at a coffee shop and enjoys drawing.

Cara Tratner, Wesleyan University
A Sociology major and passionate educator, Cara has taught in diverse settings ranging from Philadelphia public middle schools to Connecticut prisons to rural Costa Rican high schools. After devoting two summers to intensive teaching internships with Breakthrough Collaborative, teaching subjects as diverse as Physics, Race Relations, English, Photography and Dance, Cara followed her interest to Chile and Argentina to explore comparative education and social change. She is currently coordinating a middle school tutoring program, teaching a student forum on prison education, and working on a senior honors thesis about the relationship between education and incarceration.

Rhidaya Trivedi, Middlebury College
Remembering her mother's devotion to nourishing family and community; her deep frustration after five years of fruitless work in local, federal and international climate change politics; and her experience in Indonesia watching local rain forests disappear and respiratory health worsen because of indoor cooking fires, Rhiya is committed to the idea of climate solutions that deliver immediate livelihood benefits. As an Environmental Policy Major at Middlebury College, her commitment to environmentalism has been challenged to include a focus on issues of justice, dignity and capacity building in marginalized communities - facets of the environmental problem she hopes never to forget.

Alexis Valauri-Orton, Davidson College
Born and raised in Seattle, Alexis harbors a lifelong love of all things marine. Whether searching for crabs under rocks or exploring planktonic gene expression in the lab, she loves to learn about the ocean. When she heard about ocean acidification and its impact on marine life, her fascination took on a sense of urgency. Since then, she has worked to raise awareness about the issue through environmental education. Determined to motivate as many people as possible, she works to humanize environmental issues and help people understand how we are all connected to them.

Rebecca Wade, Rice University
Becky Wade, a U.S. Junior National Champion and NCAA Division I All-American in track and field, is a History, Psychology and Sociology major at Rice University on a full athletic scholarship. She runs 80 miles a week while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. As a sociology research assistant at Rice and the University of Texas, Becky has submitted two papers for publication. She serves as a student ambassador and tutor and volunteers in the Houston community. Her academic and athletic backgrounds have inspired her to explore the ways and reasons that people around the globe chase self-discovery and fulfillment through running.

Teona Williams, Bowdoin College
Teona's had a deep appreciation for nature and wildlife since her teenage years. She has lead canoe trips for high schoolers, taught nature classes and continues to lead groups at college through the Bowdoin Outing Club. These activities have helped her realize that not everyone has access to nature. Working with the Outing Club, the African American Society, and Environmental Studies program, she seeks to increase participation-diversity in natural spaces. Teona's Watson project is a continuation of a life long goal to help more people access nature, providing the same opportunities that have been so instrumental to her own development.

 
Copyright 2014 The Thomas J. Watson Foundation