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The Carletonian

Carleton student wins Watson Fellowship

< Falk ’09, history major, has won the Watson Fellowship and will travel to Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco next year. His goal, Falk said, is to “experience minority life and minority religion, immerse myself in the Chaldean, Coptic, Jewish, and Berber (Imazighen) communities.”

The Watson Fellowship, founded in 1968, is an opportunity for seniors to take a year after graduation to travel the world with a grant of $25,000. Fellows are required to leave their home country to undertake a project of their choosing.

Falk describes it as “a year-long experience and adventure.”

Fellows are nominated by their school to apply for the fellowship. Among other colleges that participate in the Watson are Amherst, Bowdoin, Bryn Mawr, Colgate, Davidson, Grinnell, Haverford, Middlebury, Pomona, Swarthmore, Vassar, Williams, and many other small liberal arts colleges and universities.

Up to 50 Watson fellows are selected from around 200 candidates nominated yearly.

Falk says he embraced the Watson Fellowship after “thinking about the Fulbright and other research-based programs,” because, as he puts it “I can follow my interests without having to worry about producing a piece of scholarship at the end.”

Falk says of his decision to focus on religion and music, “I have had an amorphous and thus far unresolved personal spiritual life. Living with people who remain steadfast in their faiths despite tremendous social obstacles will let me understand myself better. That, and I want to learn the ‘oud, which is the Arab ancestor to the lute.”

He has chosen to study in Jordan, Egypt, and the like because many other Arabic speaking country he was interested in like Israel/Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria are deemed unsafe by the State Department, thus Fellows are not allowed to travel there.

As far as his Carleton experience’s hand in preparing him for the Fellowship, Falk says, “I don’t think Carleton has prepared me particularly well for my Watson Fellowship. When I toured as a prospie, admissions claimed that Arabic would be taught my freshman year. It arrived my junior year. The administration’s foot-dragging in hiring tenure-track professors of Arabic, Arab History, and Islamic studies has left a lot of students with interests in the Middle East in a big void. I know that nearly everything happens at a snail’s pace at the hiring level, but it seems like these areas were not as high priority here as they are at many comparable colleges and universities.”

At the same time, Falk speaks encouragingly about Bill North and Roy Grow, who he says are “great assets in preparing Carleton’s nominees to speak the Watson language.”

Falk’s advice for Carls looking to apply for the Watson Fellowship or other such programs is to “think seriously about what you would want to do for a year. Before I settled on my minorities, music, and spirituality idea, I thought I wanted to bake bread around the world, which I think would have turned a great hobby into a bad job.”

After completing his Watson Fellowship, Falk plans to attend graduate school in Arab History, most likely at UC San Deigo.

For more information on the Watson visit their website, or the Career Center.

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