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Bard Senior Receives Prestigious Watson Travel Grant

Taliesin Gilkes-Bower Awarded the Thomas J. Watson Foundation 2010–11 Fellowship to Travel in Jamaica, South Africa, Ghana, and Mexico

Jennifer Wai-Lan Huang
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—Bard College senior Taliesin Gilkes-Bower from Seattle, Washington, has been awarded the prestigious Thomas J. Watson Foundation 2010–11 Fellowship, which provides for a year of travel and exploration outside the United States. “The awards are long-term investments in people, not research,” says Cleveland Johnson, director of the Watson Fellowship Program and a former Watson Fellow. “We look for persons likely to lead or innovate in the future and give them extraordinary independence to pursue their interests outside of traditional academic structures. Watson Fellows are passionate learners, creative thinkers, and motivated self-starters who are encouraged to dream big but demonstrate feasible strategies for achieving their fellowship goals. The Watson Fellowship affords an unparalleled opportunity for global experiential learning.” Each Watson Fellow receives a grant of $25,000 for 12 months of travel and independent study.

Taliesin Gilkes-Bower’s project, “Beats, Bits and Space: Digital Mediation of Youth Voices,” will take him to Jamaica, South Africa, Ghana, and Mexico. “Around the globe, marginalized young people utilize inexpensive computers to communicate through electronic music,” says Gilkes-Bower. “As an electronic musician myself, I am obsessed with this music and the originality I find in the work of musicians with limited resources and minimal formal training. I will join the communities creating this music to study their work, and to share my own. As a Watson Fellow I will take inspiration from the mythos of the traveling troubadour and the power of the griot. With a laptop as my instrument I will move between locales, carrying what I’ve learned and heard between each one and developing a new understanding of the importance of music as a means of political and personal expression. I want to meet artists on their own terms and explore the diversity of sounds and experience that can only come from meaningful personal relationships and exploration. The most important resource provided by the Watson Foundation is the time and audacity to complete a project which would otherwise be impossible.”

Over the past several years, 11 Bard seniors have received Watson fellowships: Christopher Herring and David Martin (2008–09) Gabriel Harrell and Kathryn Newman (2007–08); Christophe Chung and Jonathan Helfgott (2006–07); Yishay Garbasz and Nguyen Nguyen (2004–05); Emily McNair and Vincent Valdmanis (2003–04); and Miya Buxton (2002–03).

This year, Thomas J. Watson Foundation awarded 40 fellowships to college seniors to pursue their unique passion or dream for a year of independent exploration and travel outside the United States. Awardees come from select private liberal arts colleges and universities; 150 finalists competed on the national level, after their institutions nominated them in the autumn. The year of travel provides fellows an opportunity to test their aspirations and abilities and develop a more informed sense of international concern. Approximately 2,640 Watson Fellows have taken this challenging journey during the history of the program. They have gone on to become college presidents and professors, CEOs of major corporations, MacArthur “genius” grant recipients, politicians, artists, lawyers, diplomats, doctors, journalists, and researchers. For further information about the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program, visit or e-mail


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This event was last updated on 03-29-2010