May 4, 2001
Three Middlebury College students
awarded Watson Fellowships
MIDDLEBURY, VT.--For the fourth year
in a row, three Middlebury College students were awarded Thomas J.
Watson Fellowships. Seniors Jonathan Reiber of Dedham, Mass., Molly
Holmberg of Orono, Maine, and Elizabeth Harper of Leawood, Kans., are
the recipients of the 2001 fellowships. Each student will receive
$22,000 to travel outside the United States and explore a topic of
his or her own design.
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.
Reiber, a religion major whose
proposal is titled "Faith-Based Peacemaking Communities and the End
of Estrangement," will travel to Italy, Northern Ireland and South
Africa. In his personal statement to the fellowship organizers he
wrote, "My Watson Fellowship would help me further discover the ways
that we come to know and value each other despite the differences and
conflicts that come between us. If it is in the shelter of each other
that the people live, and I believe that it is, I want to see how I
can help build that shelter." Reiber would like to continue seeing
people move toward peace and conflict resolution through community
dialogue, and inter-faith and multi-cultural tolerance.
Reiber has experience working on
community issues, including his role as a student organizer of the
annual Middlebury College Peace Symposium on both the local and
national levels. "I have seen how dialogue and story telling can help
bring people together despite boundaries of race, religion, and other
social, economic and political differences," he said.
Holmberg's project, "Mapping
Footsteps: Travel Routes of Rural, Highland Communities," will take
her to Peru, Mongolia and Madagascar. A geography major, she plans to
study and map the design, function, and local significance of
traditional travel routes of isolated, highland settlements. Holmberg
stated in her application to fellowship organizers, "I believe the
most effective and provocative tool to communicate community-scale
travel and movement is the map. Maps
speak clearly and directly; they are grounded in the physical
landscape, are accessible across languages and cultures, and can
creatively represent complex lifestyle patterns in a succinct
Holmberg declared, "Map-making is my
passion I plan to create hand-drawn maps that represent local
travel routes between villages as well as smaller scale maps of
movement patterns within settlements. I also will collect or document
spatial representations or maps made by villagers
She will spend much of the next year
travelling on foot. According to Holmberg, her devotion to
backpacking stems more from the experience of walking the trails
themselves rather than the thrill of reaching the summit-a
perspective she discovered on a trip to Mount Everest.
Harper's project, "Exploring the
Diversity of Tropical Frogs," will offer her the opportunity to study
puzzling declines in amphibian populations in Tanzania, Guyana and
Thailand. "These decreases are occurring all over the world, even in
lush, protected areas," said Harper. According to her, it is
important to study environmental cues, such as climate changes due to
global warming, because charting such data may hold implications for
"There is so much yet to be learned
about tropical frogs that the information I could gain in the span of
a year might, in some ways, seem minimal. However, because so little
is known, such data might easily double our existing knowledge of the
frogs in many of these areas," notes Harper.
The product of her year-long work
will be original data and a host of new questions which she hopes to
answer over the course of her career in the field of herpetology, the
study of amphibians and reptiles. Harper's long-range goal is to make
this topic more accessible to the greater community outside of the
scientific world through field guides, travel guides, children's
books and conservation material.
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
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