What is the Watson Fellowship?

The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship provides one year of purposeful travel for 40 graduating seniors from partnering colleges (i.e., highly selective small colleges). Institutions that may nominate Watson fellows have undergraduate populations of fewer than 3,000 students. The year is designed by the Fellow to inspire introspection, question loyalties, and generate confidence.

Since the fellowship’s inception in 1968, the foundation has awarded over 2,500 fellowships. Former Watson Fellows have gone onto pursue diverse career paths: diplomats, scholars, doctors, politicians, and artists. This year’s class continues the commitment to diversity.

Project Guidelines: While the fellowship is flexible as required of the project pursued, the foundation is specific in its conditions. Fellows may not affiliate with academic institutions or hold formal employment. While they may seek volunteer opportunities within such institutions, they must maintain their independence. They may not acquire a paid position and are discouraged from joining organized volunteering for extended periods of time.

Project topics must speak to the passions and pursuits of the individual, informed by past experiences and informing of future dreams. Projects should not develop into formal research but ought to encourage exploration and experiences.  Unlike many other fellowships, no tangible output is required. Rather, the grant is seen as an investment in a person rather than a project. From having recently graduated from rigorous academic institutions, knowing how to investigate without the confines of academic investigation is difficult.

Further, the project is completely designed by the individual. They weren’t kidding about it being independent. Fellows are responsible for any and all logistics, while able to ask for guidance from the Foundation, past (not current!) fellows, and their friends/family — within reason, of course! The project proposal, submitted to the College for nomination and Foundation for selection, serves as a guideline and backbone of the year, with the expectation that approaches will change according to the year, the country, and the growth of the Fellow.

Country Selection: Fellows may visit any country that does not have a travel warning in place. They can neither reenter the US nor their home country during the year nor may they return to a country in which they spent more than 4-weeks.

Other: The Foundation offers health insurance reimbursements as well as student loan repayments, in addition to the taxable stipend of 30,000 USD.

For more information check out the Watson Fellows. Featured image is credited to the website.

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