Four seniors are finalists for the prestigious Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, all nominated by Ursinus faculty.
The four finalists are Min Son, Tom Armstrong, Codi Yhap, and Garrett Bullock.
The distinguished award enables graduates to travel and take on a year-long independent study after graduation. Each fellow designs and executes a project outside of the United States. Fellows propose where they want to go and whom they want to meet.
Each graduating senior is nominated by one of the 40 partner colleges affiliated with the Watson Foundation, which sponsors the fellowship. Once nominated, nominees enter the national selection process in which they are interviewed on campus by a foundation representative.
The grant consists of a one-year stipend of $36,000.
Biology and Applied ethics double major Min Son hopes to study different social factors and family structures that influence parenting styles and how children are raised.
“The end goal would be to answer the following questions: What does it mean to be a good parent in different cultures and societies? What role do parents play in their children’s lives in different countries? What social and personal factors influence parenting the most?” she said.
She discussed the assumption that once people have kids, it is automatically assumed they know how to raise the children based on how their parents were raised.
Son wants to shine light on the different ways to raise a child and gain a better understanding and perspective.
The places she’s chosen to pursue these questions are China, Taiwan, Malaysia, and India.
Fellow nominee and English major Tom Armstrong hopes to study comedy around the world and how it intersects with hardships and social contexts.
He plans to shadow improv troupes, interview them while also discussing comedy with them. He also plans to collect oral histories from them by asking questions surrounding their childhood, their values, their families and how those generated their interest in comedy.
“I’m really interested in how comedy can be used to deal with personal hardship like depression. I want to see what it’s like around the world because comedy is everywhere. Every human knows how to laugh but it looks different everywhere,” he said.
Armstrong plans to pursue the study in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Vienna, Tokyo, Melbourne, and Cape Town.
History, Politics, and International Relations triple major Garrett Bullock centered his research proposal on answering the question, “What do we really teach, when we teach drumming?”
Growing up, Bullock had a vast knowledge of drumming. As someone who participated in their high school marching band, he learned a lot of American cultural values from his experience.
His interest was sparked when he taught percussion at a high school and asked himself if he should even be teaching these sorts of things.
“What I would be pursuing with my Watson is seeing what cultural values are taught,” he said.
The areas he’s chosen to conduct his research are Japan, Peru, Benin, and India.
Bullock was inspired to apply for the Watson because it’s a part of his life he hasn’t figured out about himself. He explained how in some aspects that’s what the Watson exists for.
“Yes, part of it is because this journey around the world, to discover this cool topic but it’s also about self-discovery,” he said.
Lastly, Codi Yhap, plans to conduct his research by looking at storytelling practices and how we use stories to deconstruct social norms and beliefs.
“When I was younger I had a hard time finding anyone who shared my experiences until I read Aquaman. I found parallels between our stories and found that fiction was as good teacher as any to teach me about the world,” he said.
The places he plans to visit are Japan, Israel, Liberia, and Peru.
Watson fellows will be announced in March, until then, the four nominees will await their destiny.