Two seniors awarded Watson Fellowship

Photo Courtesy of Kim Corona

Skylar Haas

Garrett Bullock and Tommy Armstrong began their time at Ursinus living together in Stauffer hall. Now as they finish up their undergrad careers, they will embark on another journey as they both receive grants for the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship.

According to the Ursinus website, “Ursinus College is one of 41 partner institutions that can nominate students for the one-year grant, which fosters international research and exploration among its participants. The 52nd class of Watson Fellows includes 47 students from 20 states and eight countries.”

In order to have a chance at the Fellowship, applicants had to submit a personal statement and a project statement. The personal statement was the applicant’s chance to explain who they are and why the project they chose is important to them. The project statement includes where the applicant wants to go and what they will be doing there. This must tie into their personal statement.

After the pool of applicants is narrowed down to just 4 people, those individuals participate in an in-person interview with members of the Watson committee.

Bullock says that his interview for the fellowship was in November, and he heard back about the results in March, so it was a long, anticipation-filled process. He explains that the day they were supposed to find out, he was in and out of sleep all night because he knew he was getting the email that day. The first thing he sees on his phone is a text message from Tommy that said, “WOOOOOOO!” He then saw the email from Meredith Goldsmith congratulating both him and Armstrong on their acceptance for the fellowship. He says he felt relief and happiness.

Bullock will be traveling to Japan, Peru, Togo (in West Africa), and India. His project is to study the different drumming cultures in these countries by observing and participating in those drumming cultures. His boss at home helped Bullock make connections with people in the drumming world in Japan.

Armstrong will be studying, “the intersection between comedy and hardship and see where the comedic impulse comes from around the world and how it’s affected by cultural norms and events.” He will travel to Amsterdam, Barcelona, Vienna, Tokyo, Melbourne, and Cape Town in order to complete this research.

Armstrong states that he wants to, “examine comedy as a coping mechanism for depression and [see] if that is a global trend… [by] shadowing improv troupes and comedy groups around the world.”

Armstrong explains that he will do this by, “interviewing comedians and creating my own satirical travel vlog with a character I like to do, Gary. After a falling out with his mother Gary will travel around the world, where terrible things befall him as he puts on a happy healthy front.”

Both Bullock and Armstrong are looking forward to their adventures. However, they will now have to wait until things with COVID-19 clear up. Normally, fellowship winners would leave before August 1 for their research. However, there has been a 2-year deferral, so if Bullock or Armstrong cannot leave by August 1, they have 2 years to defer the grant money to travel.