Two Bard College Seniors Win Prestigious Watson Travel FellowshipsANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—Bard College seniors Hattie Wilder-Karlstrom ’20 and Sabrina Slipchecnko ’20, have been awarded prestigious Thomas J. Watson Fellowships, which provide for a year of travel and exploration outside the United States. Continuing its tradition of expanding the vision and developing the potential of remarkable young leaders, the Watson Foundation selected Wlider-Karlstrom and Slipchecnko as two of 47 students to receive this award for 2020-21. The Watson fellowship offers college graduates of unusual promise a year of independent, purposeful exploration and travel—in international settings new to them—to enhance their capacity for resourcefulness, imagination, openness, and leadership and to foster their humane and effective participation in the world community. Each Watson Fellow receives a grant of $36,000 for 12 months of travel and independent study. Over the past several years, 21 Bard seniors have received Watson fellowships.
Hattie Wilder-Karlstrom ’20, from Amherst, Massachusetts, will explore the ways that structured play, including but not limited to soccer and music, functions as a form of humanitarian aid, especially in refugee communities, in Kenya, Greece Germany, Canada, Chile, and Colombia. A history major with a concentration in Latin American and Iberian Studies, Wilder-Karlstrom says, “In a world full of division, constructed and natural, it is easy to remain in our comfort zones, keeping the ‘us’ in, and the ‘others’ out. I believe that finding commonalities with strangers is one of the great beauties of life and that humanity has an amazing ability of cropping up everywhere, despite all odds. A border region is a place of mixture, of conflict, of transition, and as such is endlessly fascinating. Therefore, my project looks to understand the impact of borders, break down boundaries through structured play, and in a time of rising fascism and nationalism, begin to ask the question of what borderlessness and welcoming could mean for the world.”
Bard College Berlin senior Sabrina Slipchecnko ’20, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, will spend the year in Austria, Greece, Ukraine, Argentina, and Turkey, where she will explore crossovers of queerness and Orthodoxy in Jewish social life, to connect history to the present, to rediscover mystic enchantment, and will make a series of animated movies from her investigations. “As a queer person, the idea of God has been a refuge in uncomfortable times. I want to know that queer people can have meaningful spiritual lives. I want to recognize us as a constant part of religious society, to undo the ingrained hatred and supposed impossibility of our existence. When I encounter the proof of our being, from the past to the present, I feel that we can claim a place in our spiritual communities again—because we’ve always been here,” says Slipchecnko.
A Watson Year provides fellows with an opportunity to test their aspirations and abilities through a personal project cultivated on an international scale. Watson Fellows have gone on to become leaders in their fields including CEOs of major corporations, college presidents, Emmy, Grammy and Oscar Award winners, Pulitzer Prize awardees, artists, diplomats, doctors, entrepreneurs, faculty, journalists, lawyers, politicians, researchers and inspiring influencers around the world. Following the year they join a community of peers who provide a lifetime of support and inspiration. Nearly 3000 Watson Fellows have been named since the inaugural class in 1969.
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