Bard News & Events

Press Release


Darren O'Sullivan

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—Two Bard College seniors, Emily McNair and Vincent Valdmanis, have been awarded Thomas J. Watson Fellowship awards to pursue independent research projects abroad next year. McNair and Valdmanis are two of only 48 students selected from nearly 1,000 applicants. Fifty selective private liberal arts colleges and universities participate in the Watson Fellowship program, which awards recipients $22,000 for their year of study and travel.

McNair, an anthropology major from Watertown, Connecticut, will travel to Patagonia (Argentina), Tunisia, Malta, Slovakia, New Zealand, and Vietnam. Her project, "Exploring the Lands of Honey: Beekeeping Around the World," focuses on the unique ecological, historical, economic, and social components of beekeeping. "The overall goal is to learn enough about beekeeping, honey-making, and nonconsumption bee products to eventually be able to establish apiaries in agrarian communities," says McNair, stressing that she hopes her project will help support sustainable agriculture and provide income and skill diversification for members of the communities she visits.

Valdmanis, a political studies major from Rumney, New Hampshire, will examine the practice and effect of surveillance in England, Denmark, India, the Netherlands, and Hong Kong. His project, "Control Matrix: The Global Reach of Electronic Surveillance," will explore the political and social implications of surveillance systems, their technical functions, and how issues of privacy, authority, and security are approached in various cultural contexts. "I'm interested in the technology being developed that has far-reaching implications for the future of privacy, such as cameras that can identify a person by his gait, computers that can predict behavior by analyzing video feed, and web-based systems that allow security guards in India to watch office buildings in New York," says Valdmanis. "I'm also interested in how these technologies can be used for political activism."

All Watson Fellows must conduct their studies outside of the United States as well as outside of formal academic institutions. Recipients are required to study and travel to countries they have never before visited and to remain outside of the United States for no less than 365 days. The program provides its fellows with an unusual opportunity to take stock of themselves, test their aspirations and abilities, pursue their own in-depth studies, and develop a more informed sense of international concerns. "We look for extraordinary young men and women of extraordinary promise, individuals who have the personality and drive to become the leaders of tomorrow," says Norvell E. Brasch, the executive director of the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program and a former Fellow. "The program is designed to fund the most creative dreams of our Fellows with a minimum of restrictions. The world is their canvas and we let them tell us how they want to paint it."

The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program was begun in 1968 by the children of Thomas J. Watson Sr., the founder of the IBM Corporation, and his wife, Jeannette K. Watson, to honor their parents' long-standing interest in education and world affairs. The program identifies prospective leaders and allows them to develop their independence and become world citizens. During the program's history, more than 2200 Watson Fellows have taken this challenging journey. Many have gone on to become college presidents, professors, CEOs of major corporations, politicians, artists, lawyers, diplomats, doctors, and researchers.

Bard College is a selective, private, coeducational liberal arts college whose undergraduate programs are enriched through its affiliations with research institutes and graduate programs. Founded in 1860, the College draws 1,300 students from all regions of the United States. Twelve percent of the students are from abroad, creating a diverse and internationally informed environment. The College's curricular strength is bolstered by innovative scholarship programs in literature, arts, and science, including a collaboration with The Rockefeller University. For further information about Bard, visit the website,

For further information about the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, visit the website,, or e-mail

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This event was last updated on 04-23-2003