Introducing Colby’s 2022 Watson Finalists
Their projects explore topics ranging from healthcare for refugee children to novel ecosystems to female footballers’ identity
One of 40. That’s what four Colby seniors are hoping they’ll be on March 15 when the Thomas J. Watson Foundation announces its 2022 fellows.
If granted a prestigious Watson Fellowship, they’ll embark on a global journey that promises to transform the arc of their life.
Colby’s 2022 Watson finalists—Mannon Frykholm, Pilar Fuentes, Thomas Haut, and Jordan McClintock—were selected by a committee of seven faculty members from a pool of 16 applicants. The finalists go on to compete nationally with candidates representing all 41 of the foundation’s partner colleges.
Only 40 of those national candidates will receive a Watson Fellowship and the $36,000 stipend that accompanies it.
A Watson Fellowship supports graduating seniors to pursue a personal project outside of the United States for one year. The fellowship’s goal is singular: a year of personal insight and perspective that instills confidence and leadership.
Colby has participated in the program since 1971, winning 65 fellowships. Former Watson fellows have studied urban poverty, inclusion and independence for the disabled, childbirth and midwifery in marginalized communities, and conflict resolution.
“Students who apply for a Watson learn a lot about themselves,” said Ben Fallaw, professor of Latin American studies and Colby’s Watson Fellowship liaison. “Many nominees are inspired to do at least part of their project on their own in the future, whether they win or not.”
Frykholm found the process of thinking through her Watson project gratifying. What’s more, she’s impressed that the Watson Foundation “really cares about the development of the person themselves and not the product. It allows students to be curious to ask whatever they want to ask.”
The opportunity to grow attracted McClintock to apply. “What makes it a really beautiful thing is that a Watson is meant to be a learning process,” she said. “It’s meant to be a journey.”
For a complete list of former Colby Watson Fellows, their projects, and the countries they visited, click here.
Mannon Frykholm ’22
Making Meaning through Soccer: Empowered Female Footballers
Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Egypt, Sweden, United Kingdom
Anthropology and Global Studies double major
A shared language without words. That’s how Mannon Frykholm ’22 describes soccer’s ability to bridge cultures and dialects.
That’s why she always travels with a pair of cleats. For this midfielder, they’re more useful than any pocket dictionary.
For example, on a particularly overwhelming day in Athens, Greece, conducting research last summer, Frykholm stumbled upon a game of pickup soccer. She fetched her cleats and jumped in. “It was a bunch of men I had never met before, all speaking different languages,” she recalled. “And it was the emotional reset I needed.”
On her potential Watson trip, Frykholm plans to not only play soccer at every turn but also explore as many different soccer contexts as she can find.
Frkyholm will examine how women around the world make meaning through soccer, from Sweden’s progressive perspective on soccer, to Argentina’s sexism toward women players, to Brazil’s street football, to Egypt’s Right to Dream academy that links soccer and educational opportunities, to the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia.
So much of the game is about building community, said the tri-captain of Colby’s women’s soccer team. But in the United States, a pay-to-play culture dominates, where access to the game is typically through paying coaches or a club, she said. She’s especially curious how community develops differently in pickup cultures around the world.
Soccer has been a vehicle for learning for Frkyholm since her childhood in Boulder, Colo. Lessons about herself, about leadership, and about being part of something larger than herself. During her Watson year, she’ll use that knowledge as a springboard to learn even more about her own identity as a female footballer.
“In asking other women what is meaningful about the game and why they play, I’m absolutely asking myself the same thing.”
Pilar Fuentes ’22
Exploring Novel Ecologies
Falkland Islands, Iceland, The Netherlands, Peru
Biology: ecology and evolution concentration and environmental studies: public health concentration double major
Environmental injustice isn’t just a concept for Pilar Fuentes. It’s an everyday reality.
Growing up near Houston’s shipping channel and petrochemical plants, Fuentes saw firsthand the effects of unchecked pollution on her friends and family. Asthma. Upper respiratory infections. Skin irritations. Cancer.
“It was definitely real,” said the Posse Scholar, who, since high school, has grappled with understanding relationships between humans and their environments.
Fuentes wants to believe there are alternatives to the negative relationship she’s had with her environment. And if she’s selected, she’ll spend her Watson year exploring places where humans are finding ways to live in positive, symbiotic relationships with their environments.
She’s seeking what she calls novel ecologies, which she describes as human-induced sustainability efforts that reconfigure local ecosystems.
Places like Amsterdam, a city below sea level like Houston, that’s fighting against rising waters using dunes to reclaim land. And Iceland, where geothermal facilities offer an example of good industrial energy. And Peru, where indigenous communities are working with nature via permaculture farming.
Her approach to investigating these ecologies will be twofold. First, with a cultural lens to see what traditions or beliefs foster symbiotic relationships with the environment. And secondly, as a citizen scientist examining relationships between organisms and sharing her findings via blogs and websites.
At its core, however, Fuentes’s Watson journey will be about moving beyond her Western ideas and education. “In the United States, white environmentalism dominates the way that we see nature,” she said. “We read Thoreau, and we venerate Roosevelt. But some things that people don’t realize is that white environmentalism is inherently racist. I didn’t realize that until coming to Colby.”
Reconciling her self-described inner turmoil has value beyond her own awakening.
“I’m not the only one experiencing this. There are a lot of communities impacted by climate change and environmental degradation. Gaining insight from communities dealing with this in a better manner than the United States would be eye-opening.”
Thomas Haut ’22
Surfboard Design: 300 CE to Modern Alternatives
Brazil, Mexico, Peru, and Portugal
Latin American studies major
Surfer Thomas Haut ’22 intends to begin his potential Watson year engaging with the global surfing community in an unlikely spot: an inland lake.
He’ll start at the source, where many claim the roots of surfing began, on the shores of Lake Titicaca, deep in southeastern Peru. Here, the Uru people built watercraft from locally harvested reeds. Later, Peru’s coastal Moche culture adopted the design, Haut said, and manifested el caballito de totora, or little reed horse, riding waves as far back as 300 CE.
The history of surfing fascinates Haut, but so does the prospect of building surfboards using sustainable materials and methods. By integrating traditional practices with forward-thinking design, Haut plans to bring green innovation into today’s often-toxic practice of building surfboards with petroleum-based materials.
As Haut travels to coastal communities in Peru, Mexico, Portugal, and Brazil, he’ll apply that innovative mindset to the numerous boards he intends to build. At each locale, he’ll find surfboard-making mentors and work collaboratively to “invent creative processes that have never been attempted before,” he said.
And all those boards he’ll craft? He’ll customize and give many of them to aspiring surfers without access to quality boards.
“I want to get people on the boards that are right for them,” said Haut, an experienced surfer from Andover, Mass., who recognizes the importance of riding a board that matches one’s style.
As he travels, he’ll search for answers to certain questions. What does it mean to be a selfless surfer? How can surfers and scientists collaborate to combat the surf industry’s carbon footprint?
Haut sees his Watson proposal as a culmination of his life thus far. A life defined by a passion for surfing and a belief in the benevolence of the international surfing community.
Surfing, he said, inspires collective compassion and advocates for humanity worldwide. “It’s something that brings people together.”
Jordan McClintock ’22
The House that Healthcare Built
Canada, Denmark, Germany, Malta, Sweden, and United Kingdom
Science, Technology, and Society major on a premed track
Alone. That’s how Jordan McClintock’s mother came to the United States from Central America. Alone, and 6 years old.
McClintock’s mother soon had a sponsor to help her get settled, but she didn’t have a healthcare advocate for many years. The harrowing stories she shared later with her daughter left an indelible mark on McClintock. Now, the premed student is prepared to spend her potential Watson year focused on child refugees around the world and the healthcare systems that do—or do not—support them.
“The House that Healthcare Built” is based on the idea of an ethnographic journey to encapsulate the medical inequities and healthcare struggles of global child refugees, said McClintock ’22, a Ralph Bunche Scholar from Wading River, N.Y.
McClintock plans to compile narratives from NGOs and community health advocates in her chosen countries to get an insider’s view on healthcare support systems for refugees. She also wants to talk to parents and, of course, to children.
“I want to listen. I want to give them the opportunity to share their stories, how they’re feeling, and ultimately gain a better understanding of what it’s like to be displaced,” said McClintock. “I have my mother’s story, but there are so many other stories all across the world.”
McClintock chose her countries based on their sometimes-complicated approach to providing clinical care for refugees. Each country is “developed” in terms of health care measures and policies as defined by the World Health Organization, she said. She’ll look at a variety of countries to gain insight into their differing approaches and outcomes.
With this deeper understanding, McClintock feels she can one day be a better provider herself, one who understands the lifelong impacts on refugees’ well-being—especially their mental health.
“I want to help people who may not be able to advocate for themselves because of cultural and language barriers,” she said. “It’s in my blood to help those who don’t have a voice.”