April 21, 1999

Three Middlebury College Students Awarded Watson Fellowships

All of Middlebury's Nominees Received the Award

For the first time since 1969, the entire roster of Middlebury College students nominated by the College for the prestigious Thomas J. Watson Fellowship received the award. Three seniors--Megan Hankins of Hampstead, Md.; Stephanie Saldana of San Antonio, Texas; and John Mauro of Auburn, Maine, have been awarded 1999 fellowships.

Watson Fellows are chosen in a two-step process that requires nomination from one of the participating 49 top liberal arts colleges in America, followed by a national competition. After more than 1,000 students applied to the first round of selection, 60 Watson Fellows were chosen. Each student will receive $22,000 to travel outside the United States and explore a topic of his or her own choosing.

"It is amazing to think that we won three out of three this year," said Arlinda Wickland, director of student fellowships and scholarships at Middlebury. "We could say … it's not really surprising considering the caliber of our nominees. But our selection committee is quite mindful that we are competing with top colleges who also have very strong nominees. That realization keeps us humble and focused."

Hankins' project, entitled "Building the Natural Environment: A Study of Zoo Architecture," will take her to Germany, England, Australia, and Japan to visit zoos in each country and study their architecture. As an architecture major, she plans to examine and compare the very different attitudes of each country towards displaying animals, and how these nations treat public and recreational spaces in general. Hankins will leave in August to begin her project.

Mauro, an environmental studies major with a conservation biology focus, will travel to Ghana, Australia, and Bhutan for his study project, titled "The Role of Creation Stories in the Perception of the Natural World." He will spend time with indigenous peoples in each country, learning of their folklore and examining how the myths and stories affect their perception of nature and ecology. Mauro will photograph subjects and tape-record the stories he hears, which he will then gather into a multimedia presentation of slides and recordings geared toward school-age audiences. He will leave for his fellowship studies in July or August.

Saldana, an English major with a creative writing focus, will spend 12 months in Italy and Israel exploring for her project, titled "Writing within the Christian Millennium." She plans to write poetry inspired by her discovery of these cities and their Christian heritage, by the writings of the Bible, and by her experience as a witness of the pilgrimages many Christians will make to these cities in celebration of 2,000 years of Christianity and the new millennium. She will leave in mid-July to spend five months each in Jerusalem and Rome, and two months in the Italian city of Assisi.

In honor of their parents' long-standing interest in education and world affairs, the children of Jeannette K. Watson and her husband Thomas J. Watson, Jr., the founder of IBM, created the Watson Fellowship Program in 1968. The Thomas J. Watson Foundation selects students based upon each nominee's character, academic record, leadership potential, willingness to delve into another culture, and the personal significance of the proposed project.

More than 2,000 Watson Fellows have taken this challenging journey in the 30-year history of the foundation. The Fellowship Program was instructed by Thomas J. Watson, Jr. to look for seriously creative people, according to Executive Director Noreen Tuross. Referring to the 185 interviews conducted this year in the final round of competition, Tuross said, "We found an abundance of creativity, intelligence, and integrity from which to choose." The Watson Foundation continues to believe that the investment in Watson Fellows is an effective contribution to the global community.