March 24, 1997

Middlebury College Students Receive Watson Fellowships

Two Middlebury College students have been awarded Thomas J. Watson Fellowships for 1997-1998. The students, Maciej Ceglowski '97 and Renee M. Kuriyan '97, were selected from the largest nominee pool in five years in what the foundation called "an unusually competitive year." Sixty Watson Fellows were chosen from 182 candidates. Each Watson Fellow will receive $18,000 to travel and explore a topic of his or her own choosing outside the United States.

Maciej Ceglowski, of North Conway, New Hampshire, will study "Painting in Northern and Southern Light." Mr. Ceglowski, a studio art/Russian double major, plans to do outdoor oil painting in Scotland, France and Morocco. "I'm following the climate," he explained. "Morocco is very close to the equator and very bright." He explains his project as the "equivalent of a photo essay." Describing how he works, he said, "I absorb the landscape and then it grradually becomes something totally different from my first impression." For instance, he feels that in Scotland, where he will spend the summer, his early paintings will not resemble his later ones. Mr. Ceglowski is delighted to have the opportunity to be a Watson Fellow. "Getting a sabbatical to do painting is really precious," he said.

Renee Kuriyan, of Bridgewater, New Jersey, will research "The Environmental Practices of Refugees" in Kenya, Malawi and Mozambique. A joint environmental studies/anthropology major, she came up with the idea when she studied human ecology in Tanzania in her junior year with the School for International Training. Flying over the Rwandan refugee camps in Tanzania, she noted mass deforestation. "I want to study the environmental impact that the refugees have made," she said. "There is a link between refugees and the environment. Some of the camps practice caring for the environment and studies have proven the crime rates are lower in those camps. The refugees are proud to have trees by their shelters." Noting that there is more to refugee camps than food, health and safety, Ms. Kuriyan will look at fuel use and agriculture practices. "This is a great opportunity," she said. "I'm really excited to get involved in the conservation movement in East Africa."

The Watson Fellowship Program was started in 1968 by the children of Thomas J. Watson, R. Watson, the founder of IBM, and his wife Jeannette K. Watson, to honor their parents' long-standing interest in education and world affairs. The foundation selects Watson Fellows based upon each nominee's character, leadership potential, willingness to immerse him or herself in new cultures, and the creativity and personal significance of the project proposed. "When we speak to prospective applicants for Watson Fellowships, said William Moses, the foundation's director, "we ask, 'What would you do if you could do anything for a year?'" Watson Fellows take this advice seriously and often have creative, sometimes whimsical, projects.