2024 Watson Fellowship Finalists

Kathy Logan 



This year Ursinus has four Watson Fellowship Finalists! The following finalists for the 2024 senior class are Tia Alan, Justina Holahan, Jessica Schnur, and Joey Nolan! Each finalist was interviewed so we could gain insight into why they applied for the Watson and what they hope to accomplish with the grant. 

For those who don’t know, according to the Ursinus College website, the Watson Fellowship is “a one-year grant for pur­pose­ful, inde­pen­dent explo­ration out­side the Unit­ed States, award­ed to grad­u­at­ing seniors nom­i­nat­ed by one of 41 part­ner insti­tu­tions” (Ursinus College). One of the four finalists will earn the privilege to spend a year abroad to achieve their dream project. 

Each finalist was first asked why they decided to apply for the Watson Fellowship. Tia Alan started off by saying, “The Watson process is incredibly involved. While I would recommend for anyone interested to apply, it lasts close to a year. Around April of Junior year is the initial part of the application process, but the majority of the legwork happened during the Fall of senior year, which was my most stressful semester in undergrad because of the classes and projects I was doing. It includes two essays, mentorship meetings for revisions, a budget, and a contact sheet. The majority of the effort is the emotional investment – personally, I felt like I was spending a lot of time talking about or thinking about the Watson even when I wasn’t working on my application. While the process sounds scary, it was also a rewarding experience, as it forces you to sit down and reflect upon your life.” Holahan followed up and admitted that the decision to apply was last-minute. Holahan explained, “Dr. Argondezzi sent out an email to announce that there was still one position open for the November deadline. This was probably mid-October. I am the kind of person who loves to try everything, and I’ve always wanted to travel, both to continue improving my Spanish, and to expand my perspective in general. I thought, ‘why not?’ and went for it.” 

The finalists were then asked what they would do with the grant if they won. Nolan expressed that his plan incorporated both his knowledge of the environment and his love of theater, “Theater can tell us how people all over the world are struggling to balance human development with environmental protection and carbon-use reduction. During my Watson year, I would travel to 5 countries and engage with different forms of theater to see how it reflects their relationship to the Earth. Through the lens of drama, I will explore how different communities learn about and grapple with their ecological footprints.” The fourth finalist, Schnur, is going a different route with her fellowship as she says, “For my project, I would like to travel the world and meet groups of documentary filmmakers via different festivals. Film as a medium is like a language; different cultures shape different ways in how we tell stories. I’d like to meet people around the world who share my passion and learn about how to become a better artist.” Each finalist has different countries in mind for their projects. Alan, whose project centers on sexual assault survivors finding peace, plans to travel to Greece, Argentina, Thailand, Morocco, and the Netherlands. Holahan, who will use the grant to study the psychological effects of social isolation, plans to go to Argentina, Panama, Sweden, India and Tanzania. Schnur wants to go to Japan, Italy, Scotland, India, South Africa, and New Zealand. Nolan wants to go to Japan, Greece, Bhutan, New Zealand, and Indonesia. All these finalists have amazing goals and amazing ideas for their trips that we hope they see to fruition!

For those thinking of applying to Watson, Alan has advice for those interested. Alan says, “Follow something you’re truly passionate about. This fellowship doesn’t seem to care how studious you are, how good your grades are, or how smart your project seems. They care about how passionate you are about what you’re doing. Some people have gone off and studied wild subjects, from puppets to yogurt – even if it doesn’t seem academic, follow wherever your passion takes you. If you do not know where to start with your project statement, think about the four core questions of Ursinus. If you have a hobby, an experience, or anything that is a large and impactful part of your life that you would be happy to explore every day for a year, you’ve got your project.”