Student Fellowships & Awards

The Center for Life Beyond Reed, Division of Student Services

Watson (Thomas J. Watson) Fellowship

Internal Deadline: September 17, 2015
Liaison: Josh Howe

» Scholarship's official website
» List of previous winners
» Get started - request an internal application!


The mission of the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program is to offer college graduates of unusual promise a year of independent, purposeful exploration and travel outside of the United States in order to enhance their capacity for resourcefulness, imagination, openness, and leadership and to foster their humane and effective participation in the world community. The stipend for the fellowship year is $30,000. Watson Fellows must create, execute, and evaluate their own projects. When they wake up in the morning, Watson Fellows must ask themselves, What am I going to do today? A fellowship year may include some time spent learning a language, or dance steps, or a scientific method, and during those times a fellow may be subject to someone else's agenda. However, the Watson Fellowship is intended to be a time when fellows are their own advisors. The fellow should decide how questions can be answered, when it is time to move on, if a project must be adjusted in any way, etc. It is for this reason that Watson Fellows do not affiliate themselves with an academic institution, do not spend 12 months exclusively in a training course, and do not have volunteer work for institutions like Habitat for Humanity as their primary activity. Some fellows undertake volunteer work to gain access to people they wish to observe or interview, but in such cases the fellow should feel that he/she is still in charge of the project.

Watson fellows should be seeking out new experiences in new places. Proposals may not include return to a country where the applicant has spent time unless the return involves working in a region of a country that is linguistically and culturally different from the area of previous study. If the applicant previously had been to China, work in Hong Kong, for example, might be considered -- or work in Tibet. Ultimately, the Foundation's decision would be based on how the proposal frames the need to work in such areas. (Please note that a fellow would be allowed only to transit quickly through any region of former study en route to the destination.)

Fellows must begin their year no later than August 1 and return in time to attend the Returning Fellows Conference.


Graduating senior. There is no stated minimum GPA. Any age or nationality is eligible.

Selection Criteria

Reed's Fellowships and Awards Committee selects four nominees who polish and complete their applications. Each nominee is interviewed by a representative of the Watson Foundation. The Watson Foundation selects a total of 40-50 Fellows in any given competition cycle.

Application Procedure

Interested students should use this form to request an internal application. The internal application consists of a completed cover sheet, personal statement (maximum 500 words), description of project proposal (maximum 500 words), and two reference letters, at least one of which is from a Reed faculty or staff member.  Contact Michelle Johnson with any questions.