The Oberlin Review
<< Front page News April 20, 2007

Two Oberlin Students Chosen This Year as Watson Fellows

Fellows with Freedom: Watson Fellowship winners Sarah Politz and Nathan Leamy will have $25,000 and the next year to pursue projects of their choosing. Sarah Politz expects to travel to Africa for her project, while Nathan Leamy will be studying Mexico, France and India.

Imagine being given $25,000 to learn about anything you wanted for a year. As recipients of the 2007-2008 Watson Fellowship, two Oberlin students — Nathan Leamy and Sarah Politz — were granted this opportunity, along with 48 other college students.

According to its website, the Watson Fellowship is “a one year grant for independent study and travel outside the United States awarded to graduating college seniors nominated by participating institutions.”

With her fellowship, Sarah Politz, a double-degree senior, will be exploring “the Influence of African-American Music on Contemporary African Society.” Nathan Leamy, OC ’06, will be exploring the Green Revolution’s impact on wheat production in Mexico, France and India for his project, “Farm to Fork: Eating in the Wake of the Green Revolution.”

The Watson Institution gives its fellows a great deal of freedom.

“The nice thing about the Watson [Fellowship] is I don’t need a methodology,” said Leamy. “As long as I get to eat a lot and talk to a bunch of people about their food, I’ll be happy.”

 Politz, whose trip includes visits to Ghana, Senegal, Benin, Guinea and South Africa, mentioned the level of planning she would undertake.

“I don’t have the whole year figured out yet — the great thing about the Watson [Fellowship] is they want you to go out on a limb&hellip;I have no idea what to expect, I’m going to places that are radically different than [anywhere] I’ve ever been.”

Both students look forward to the challenges presented by their topics.

“Literally hundreds of millions of people who were starving were saved by [The Green Revolution], yet most people don’t even know what it was. The biggest question I am going to try to solve is just figuring out what exactly the Green Revolution was...and if it was what we think we thought it was,” Leamy said.

Politz plans to use her trombone as a way to connect with other jazz players, noting, “I’m interested in being a part of jazz communities in Africa&hellip;and finding out how people in Africa perceive American jazz and what kind of role it plays in their lives.”

At least one Oberlin student has received at Watson Fellowship every year since 1969.


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