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The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship awarded Tashayla “Shay” Borden ’21 and Jack Rider-McGovern ’21 Watson Fellowships for 2021. Borden and Rider-McGovern, who will embark on a year of travel starting August 1, join 40 students from 22 states and eight countries who make up the 53rd Class of Watson Fellows.
The highly competitive Watson Fellowship is a one-year, $36,000 grant for purposeful, independent exploration outside the United States, awarded to graduating seniors nominated by the 41 participating institutions.
Borden, an Africana studies and psychology major, will travel to Canada, Jamaica, Burkina Faso, the United Kingdom and South Africa for her project, “Narrating Resilience: Black Women’s Liberation Through Art.”
“I will examine, through a Black feminist and pan-African lens, how Black women experience post-colonial oppression and misogynoir through visual and performing arts,” said Borden, a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow.
“I aim to understand how their art informs their activism as a tool for self-preservation.”
Rider-McGovern, a Slavic studies major, a member of CISLA and a Walter Commons Fellow, plans to travel to Peru, Bolivia, Morocco, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Russia, India and Japan for his project, “Marginalised Languages: Preserving the World’s Linguistic Diversity.”
“It’s estimated that 90 percent of the world’s currently spoken languages will be dead in only 30 years,” said Rider-McGovern.
“Using languages I know and learning new ones, I will investigate strategies that different societies implement to ensure marginalized languages’ continued survival.”
Recognizing Conn’s excellence in global education and the power of its personalized, inquiry-based Connections program, the Watson Foundation reestablished its important partnership with Connecticut College in 2019. Conn was one of only nine institutions—and just three in the NESCAC—that received more than one award.
“The mission of Connecticut College—to educate students to put the liberal arts into action as citizens of a global society—is strongly aligned with the activist and global mission of the Watson Fellowship program,” said President Katherine Bergeron.
“Connections, with its emphasis on world languages and its unique integrative pathways organized around meaningful personal questions of global and local concern, is a perfect vehicle for developing candidates with the qualities the Watson Foundation seeks.”
Dean of the College Jefferson Singer and Associate Dean for Global Initiatives and Director of the Walter Commons Amy Dooling administer the Watson program on campus, along with the assistance of Associate Director of the Walter Commons and Fellowships Melissa Ryan and Senior Administrative Assistant to the Dean of the College Pam Wrinn.
“The Watson Fellowship is one of the great jewels of post-graduate fellowships,” said Singer, himself a former Watson fellow. “It offers students a unique opportunity to pursue a passionate project in an international context, integrating both personal mission and cultural awareness.”
Conn’s Watson committee was impressed by the originality and relevance of the project ideas Borden and Rider-McGovern proposed, and the passion the students showed developing their applications.
“Shay and Jack embody the intellectual passion, creativity and commitment to purposeful global engagement that a Connecticut College education is all about,” Dooling said.
“It will be a great joy to see how these impressive Camels ‘put the liberal arts in action’ as their Watson journeys unfold.”