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Beth Sorensen
Office of Communications


Gabriel Weiss, a senior interdisciplinary major in studio art and Chinese literature at Reed College, has been awarded a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship for the 1999 to 2000 academic year. He is one of 60 winners selected from 49 of America's top liberal arts colleges. Weiss will receive $22,000 to support his travel outside the United States on a wanderjahr focused on the exploration of a topic of his choice.

Weiss plans on exploring how the depiction of plum blossoms differs in the traditional Chinese painting of the Chinese Diaspora of Malaysia, the Philippines, and Australia. Spending four months in each country, he will study under Chinese painters to learn how traditional Chinese painting and the social role of the painter in Chinese communities withstand the pressures of the surrounding cultures. After his sophomore year at Reed, Weiss spent a year in China, studying with traditional Chinese painters in Beijing and Chengdu, Sichuan. After returning to Portland, he began to study Chinese painting with a Chinese painter from Shanghai named Zifen Qian. He is currently at work on his senior thesis on the "Concept of 'Emptiness' (or Xu) in Chinese Literature and Art" and currently has a solo show of his paintings at Portland's Zeitgeist Gallery. He also studies Tai Ji, which he began learning in China, and Soaring Crane Qigong, a traditional meditation technique.

Watson Fellows are selected in a two-step process that requires nomination from the college, followed by a national competition. This year more than 1,000 students applied to the first round of the selection, and 185 were chosen for the final round. The Watson Foundation looks for "seriously creative people" to carry out their fellowships. The selection is based on each nominee's character, academic record, leadership potential, willingness to delve into another culture, and the personal significance of the proposed project. Including Weiss, Reed students have been awarded 55 Watson fellowships since the program began. The children of Thomas J. Watson, Sr., the founder of IBM, and Jeannette K. Watson established the fellowship program in 1968 in honor of their parents' life-long interest in education and world affairs. The program does not underwrite formal university education; rather, it supports 12 months of independent, overseas research by graduates of small liberal arts colleges.