Media contact: Noelle Lemoine, communications assistant; tele: (413) 597-4277; email: Noelle.Lemoine@williams.eduTwo
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., March 15, 2013 – Williams College seniors Abdullah Awad and Emmanuel Whyte have been named Thomas J. Watson Fellows for 2013-14. Winners of the fellowship receive $25,000 for a year of “independent, purposeful exploration and travel.”
Awad and Whyte join 38 other students selected as Watson Fellows from among more than 700 candidates and 148 finalists. This year’s fellows come from eight countries and 14 states and will be traversing the globe exploring a wide range of topics and disciplines.
Awad, a literary studies major from Amman, Jordan, will pursue a project titled “Exile, Queerness, and the Transformative Power of Art.” He will explore how those living at the intersection of exile and queerness gain recognition by creating new forms of artistic expression. “Beginning with international NGOs, I will seek local art collectives, grassroots initiatives, and independent artists,” he says. “How does the art they produce transform the lives of the oppressed, as well as the worlds that produce oppression?”
Awad will study these issues in the communities of Palestinian immigrants in Chile, Muslims in India, indigenous Berbers in Morocco, and Arab immigrants in France.
“I’m enormously excited to embark on this world adventure,” Awad says. “It’s the culmination of the past three years of thinking globally and engaging such relevant political and cultural issues.”
From an early age, Abdullah has been motivated by the power of art. In high school, he founded a creative writing center, each year producing an anthology of work by underprivileged youth. His art is intimately linked to his civic engagements, which include co-founding the first Palestinian rights club at Williams, and building an NGO in the Middle East.
When not writing, Abdullah dances with the Columbia Debka Brigades, through which he teaches Palestinian history. After his year of travel, Abdullah plans to pursue a master of philosophy in political thought and intellectual history at the University of Cambridge through a Herchel Smith Fellowship.
Whyte, an art and psychology major from Bennington, Vt., will use his Watson fellowship to pursue a project titled “Engaging the
Gaze: Exploring Race, Identity, and Masculinity through an Artistic Lens.” The work will take him to France, Ghana, and Japan, interacting with artists in different cultural contexts and examining questions of racial identity as he hones his own artistic abilities.
“My studies and my practice of visual art have opened up new ways to reflect on my life and the extraordinary circumstances that have allowed me to grow into the artist that I am today,” says Whyte. “By visiting France, Ghana, and Japan, I aim to explore representations of blackness and black culture, maleness and masculinity. By creating visual commentaries through my artwork, I hope to discover answers to my questions.”
Raised with a Muslim background by an African-American single mother in a conservative Christian home, Whyte has long been interested in issues of identity and masculinity. A talented athlete (a member of the football team at Williams), he also developed an interest in drawing. While at Williams he has nurtured his practice and study of art, working with children from underrepresented groups in a program called Responding to Arts Involves Self Expression and at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in a curatorial internship.
Of his Watson, Whyte says, “It’s a huge honor, and it’s great to be recognized for one of my true passions, which is art.” Whyte says he’s humbled to be in the company of his fellow recipients, “to realize that I’m among these great minds doing great projects.”
The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program was established in 1968 by the children of Thomas J. Watson, Sr., who founded IBM, and his wife Jeannette K. Watson, as a way to honor their parents’ longstanding interest in education and world affairs. More than 2,700 Watson Fellows have been named since the program’s founding.
Last year, Williams’ Lindsay Olsen ’12 was named a Watson Fellow, and in 2011, graduating senior Emanuel Yekutiel won a Watson.
Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second-oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college’s 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. Students’ educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions on U.S. applicants are made regardless of a student’s financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted.