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Four Students Named Watson Fellowship Finalists

The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship is a prestigious year-long grant that allows recent graduates to explore the world abroad. This year, Ursinus’s Watson finalists, as nominated by Ursinus faculty, are Tommy Armstrong ’20, Garrett Bullock ’20, Min Son ’20 and Codi Yhap ’20.

According to the Watson Foundation’s website, the fellowship program “produces a year of personal insight, perspective and confidence that shapes the arc of fellows’ lives.” Ursinus is one of 40 partner colleges whose students are eligible for a fellowship. Fellows conceive original projects and execute them outside of the United States for one year. The fellowship includes a $36,000 stipend.

Armstrong’s proposal it to look at comedy around the world and see how it intersects with personal hardship. “People tend to laugh at what they need to laugh at, whether that be concepts that scare them, depress them or stress them out,” he says, adding, “When we’re able to subvert our fears and concerns in a way that we find funny, we triumph.”

He plans to examine the unique cultural impact of comedy in various cities, particularly those that have high rates of depression or, conversely, particularly high qualities of living.

Inspired by his own experiences, Bullock is interested in engaging and immersing himself in various international drumming traditions.

Bullock says, “I want to better understand the complex relationship between music, education, identity and cultural values.” He hopes to explore why these values are taught, as well as how performance and musicality are shaped by and reflect these values.

If chosen for the fellowship, Son plans to examine different parenting styles in China, Malaysia, India and Taiwan in order to answer several key questions about what it means to be a good parent in different cultures and societies, and what role parents play in their children’s lives in different countries. Her proposal includes plans to stay with various families throughout the fellowship while also volunteering or interning in hospitals or community centers where she can closely observe parent-child relationships.

“It is expected that when we have children of our own, we would know what to do based on how we were raised and with values we gained throughout life. But perhaps the conversation should not stop within our own family and our surrounding neighbors,” Son says.

Yhap’s proposal is to research storytelling practices and how stories are used to deconstruct social norms and beliefs. He plans to visit Japan, Israel, Liberia and Peru to examine how works of fiction teach us about the world.

The fellows will be announced in March. —By Mary Lobo ’15