Aylie Baker, a senior from Yarmouth, Maine, is the latest Middlebury student to receive the prestigious Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, which funds a year of post-undergraduate independent study outside the United States. She begins her travels in July and plans research visits to the Maldives, the Canaries, the Chiloé Archipelago and Palau, where she will record numerous audio interviews. She hopes the recordings will have value both for the communities she visits and for her own continued research at home.
Baker says growing up in Maine, with its more than 4,000 coastal islands, gave her a deep appreciation for island life and culture. She believes the rugged challenges faced by islanders, combined with inflated costs for goods, results in innovation by necessity.