Two Colorado College students have been awarded Thomas J. Watson Fellowships. Meredith Bird ’15, of Boston, and Alexander Suber ’15, of Highland Park, Illinois, were selected from a field of 700 candidates, of which 150 finalists were nominated to compete on the national level and 50 fellows were selected.
Bird’s project, titled “Hungering to Feed,” will take her to Spain, India, Tanzania, and Uganda. “The symptoms of food inequality come in many forms, such as food insecurity, malnutrition, obesity, diabetes, and food waste,” wrote Bird in her proposal. “All of these pose a monumental threat to the health of communities worldwide. During my Watson year I will explore the different facets of food inequality and how they are dealt with, or not dealt with, in different countries across the globe. Specifically, I will look at the roots, manifestations, and cultural implications of food inequality. I will learn from both those who are leading initiatives to confront food inequity in their communities and those who are most affected by food inequality.”
Suber’s project, titled “The Empathy Machine: Exploring Global Cinema’s Transformative Potential,” will take him to China, South Korea, Japan, India, and Egypt. “Cinema has become one of the dominant forms of storytelling across the globe,” Suber wrote in his proposal. “The film critic Roger Ebert once described it as ‘a machine that generates empathy.’ We go to movies to feel for the characters on screen. With the rise of international distribution and movie metropolises, what effects is cinematic fiction having on spectators across cultures? What are the different intentions and muses of filmmakers? On my Watson year, I will live with families to explore the role of cinematic fiction in everyday lives and shadow professionals to uncover why they bring certain images to the screen. By traveling to five countries and comparing the dynamic role that film plays in each, I aim to explore the intersections between politics, cultural desire, and ideology as they relate to the cinema.” Suber also will blog about his experiences and observations.
Bird, a Southwest Studies major, is one of the founding members of Colorado Springs Food Rescue. Suber, a philosophy major and film studies minor, has served as the State of the Rockies videographer and interned with a documentary film company while working on his own documentary.
Bird and Suber are in the 47th class of Watson Fellows, which draws from eight countries and 19 states. They’ll traverse 78 countries exploring topics ranging from artificial reef communities to criminal justice; from cross-cultural comedy to global cinema; from childhood education to smart grids. “Each of this year’s fellows has taken an organic interest and crafted it into a bold, one-of-a kind world pursuit,” said Chris Kasabach, executive director of the Watson Foundation. Fellows receive $30,000 for 12 months of travel, college loan assistance as applicable, and an insurance allowance.
The Watson Foundation was established in 1961 by Jeannette K. Watson in honor of her late husband, Thomas J. Watson, founder of IBM. In 1968, in recognition of Jeannette and Thomas Watson’s long-standing interest in education and world affairs, their children decided that the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program should constitute a major activity of the foundation.