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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Emily Ross ’17 wins prized Watson Fellowship

<restigious Watson Fellowship, a $30,000 grant to pursue a year of “purposeful, independent exploration outside the U.S.,” was recently awarded to senior studio art and geology double major Emily Ross. Ross will spend next year exploring the intersection of ceramics and geology in Iceland, Italy, China, Japan, Ghana and Chile. She is Carleton College’s 75th Watson Fellow.

The Watson Fellowship Program is a rare opportunity after college and pre-career to engage one’s deepest interest on a global scale. Established in the name of Thomas J. Watson Sr., the founder of IBM, the Watson Foundation provides fellows with cultural, professional and personal opportunities that challenge fellows to expand their vision, test their potential, and build the confidence and perspective to do so for others. The fellowship seeks to give college graduates the freedom to thoroughly explore a particular interest through an original project, and aims to foster aspirations, a global perspective, and to develop a more informed sense of international concern. The Watson Foundation explains that fellows are purposely given the independence to “decide where to go, who to meet and when to change course.”

As a “Watson,” Ross will be visiting six different countries to examine the ways in which geology and ceramics intersect in different communities, whether through glaze, materials, clay processing or the geographic location of pottery towns. In each of these locations, Ross will be working one-on-one with local geologists and ceramists to explore this intersection of science and art.
Ross’s motivation for this project stems from her passion for both art and geology. What started as two separate interests soon became an interdisciplinary investment that truly triumphs the liberal arts experience. “I came to Carleton knowing I wanted to do geology, and then took a field drawing class,” she said, “I loved the drawing class, so then I took ceramics class, and loved that even more, and thought ‘Well, I will take an art history class just in case I want to major in this,’ and absolutely loved the art history class, and the rest is history.”

Ross elaborated that it wasn’t until she became more involved in studio art that she realized the deep connection between the two subjects. She will seek to unify these passions throughout her project by examining the ways in which geology shapes the ceramics studios of towns across these countries. At Carleton, artists are very removed from the process of materials from the earth, so Ross hopes that over the next year, she will “find people who are a lot more in touch with every step of the process; digging the clay, to processing it, to manipulating it and using it in different ways that maybe reflect that process.”

This freedom to follow her project is just one of the reasons Ross sought after the Watson over other fellowships. “The Watson was really intriguing because there is no prescribed outcome,” she explained. In not setting quantitative boundaries to research, the fellowship gives its recipients a large amount of independence to adapt their projects as they go, and to explore the communities and cultures they visit.
Watson Fellows come from private liberal arts colleges and universities across the United States. From the program’s 40 partner institutions, 149 finalists were nominated to compete on the national level from which 40 Fellows were selected. Fellows will receive $30,000 for twelve-months of travel and college loan assistance as required.

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