April 12, 2000
Three Middlebury College Students Awarded
MIDDLEBURY, Vt.¾For the third year in a row,
three Middlebury College students were awarded Thomas J. Watson
Fellowships. Seniors Amelia Berry of Frankfort, Ky., Jenna Sigman of
Danvers, Mass., and Adina Racoviteanu of Focsani, Romania, are the
recipients of the 2000 fellowships. Middlebury was one of only four
colleges to have three students selected for the award. Each student
will receive $22,000 to travel outside the United States and explore
a topic of his or her own choosing.
Watson Fellows are chosen in a two-step process
that requires nomination from one of the participating 50 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.
Berry's project, which is titled "The Steel Drum
as Liberation," will focus on studying the cultural importance of the
steel pan, the proper name for the steel drum. She will travel to
Tobago and Trinidad to play with steel pan bands and learn about the
pan's community significance. According to Berry, the steel pan was
invented in Tobago and Trinidad. She will then travel to Barbados and
Jamaica to learn to play related percussion instruments.
Berry, a joint major in East Asian studies and
women's and gender studies, lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, until she was
13 years old and then moved to her current home in Frankfort, Ky. She
became interested in the steel pan when, at age 10, she joined an
after-school program that taught inner-city children to play the
instrument. "The steel pan is a good medium for kids to use their
energy," said Berry. "It gets them off the streets, and I am grateful
to have had that opportunity." She said she hopes to start a program
of her own someday.
According to Middlebury College Director of
Student Fellowships and Scholarships Arlinda Wickland, the Middlebury
selection committee was impressed with Berry's motivation
and talent. "Her project is particularly striking
because she plans to use steel drums as a vehicle for change, as a
positive outlet for inner-city children," said Wickland.
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Three Middlebury College Students Awarded Watson
Racoviteanu, the first international student from
Middlebury College to receive the fellowship, plans to study the
geography and religious importance of mountains. Titled "Exploring
Sacred Mountains," her project will bring her to Nepal, Tanzania,
Cameroon, Peru, and Bolivia. She plans to study different peoples'
religious beliefs and ceremonies to understand how the mountains
around them affect their cultures.
A joint geography and environmental studies major,
Racoviteanu said that she developed an interest in the geography and
cultural importance of mountains at an early age. She grew up in
Romania and has been climbing mountains since childhood. Racoviteanu
plans eventually to pursue a masters in geography as well as a career
in mountain studies.
Sigman, whose project is titled "Penguins:
Catalysts for Conservation Awareness," plans to combine her love of
penguins and her interest in the environment by studying how penguins
can be used to promote a cleaner world. Her fellowship will take her
to Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and South Africa. Sigman will
volunteer and talk with people, mostly children, in areas where there
are penguin colonies. "My main point is to learn through volunteering
how indigenous cultures use penguins as a conservation tool," she
In South Africa, Sigman will be working with an
organization that helps to rehabilitate penguins that have been
injured from oil spills. She also plans to try to do some teaching in
the local school district. Sigman is an environmental studies major
with a minor in elementary teacher's education, and is in the process
of getting her teacher certification.
Sigman has been fascinated with penguins since she
was two years old. She spent one college semester working with them
at the Boston Aquarium. Her ultimate goal is to write a children's
book about penguins and conservation in each country, she said.
The Watson Fellowship Program was begun in 1968 by
the children of Jeannette K. Watson and her husband Thomas J. Watson,
Jr., the founder of IBM, to honor their parents' long-standing
interest in education and world affairs. 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
In the history of the foundation, more than 2,200
Watson Fellows have taken this challenging journey. They have gone on
to become college presidents and professors, chief executive officers
of major corporations, politicians, artists, lawyers, diplomats,
doctors, and researchers. "We look for bright, creative,
independently minded individuals who have the personality and drive
to become leaders," said Tori Haring-Smith, the executive director of
the Watson Foundation and a former Watson Fellow. The Watson
Foundation continues to believe that the investment in Watson Fellows
is an effective contribution to the global community.