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Beth Sorensen
Office of Communications


Two Reed seniors have been awarded Thomas J. Watson Fellowships for pursuit of independent international research projects during the 2000-01 academic year. Jennifer Jane Hong, of Temple City, California, a Chinese major, will study sacred and secular dance in Ghana, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Gambia, and Brazil. Alison Madsen, a biochemistry and molecular biology major from Walla Walla, Washington, will study women’s reproductive health decisions in Mexico, Chile, Bolivia, and Nicaragua.

Watson Fellows are selected in a two-step process that requires nomination from the college, followed by a national competition. This year over 1,000 students applied for nomination by 50 selective private liberal arts colleges and universities. Hong and Madsen are among 60 national winners chosen from 184 nominees. The Watson fellows each receive $22,000 for their year of travel and study. The program does not underwrite formal university education; rather, it supports 12 months of independent, overseas research.

Jennifer Hong will focus on the dances of West Africa, particularly those of the Yoruban culture, where dance is deeply connected with religion. She plans to learn and perform these dances so she can compare and analyze the traditions and innovation within folkloric dances. Hong has expressed a particular interest in learning the Senegalese national dance Sabar, a high-spirited dance with specialized drums and percussion technique. She also intends to study black diasporan dance, to understand how dances and their meaning change as cultures come into contact with one another. For this she will travel to Brazil and visit Salvador da Bahia, Rio de Janiero, and São Paulo, where she will explore the combined dance and religious practices of the Afro-Brazilian religion candomblè, the folkloric orixà dances of Brazil, and the Afro-Brazilian movement form capoeira.

Alison Madsen plans to work with organizations that provide reproductive health services and education, interviewing patients, health care providers, administrators, and educators to investigate how women make decisions about birth control. She intends to focus on the ways in which social expectations, reproductive health education, and the availability of health services influences women’s choices. Madsen will work with the Mexican Family Planning Association, focusing on adolescent education and the influence of Catholicism in the teaching of birth control. In Chile she will work with the Chilean Institute of Reproductive Medicine, an organization focused on biomedical and psychosocial research, the development of new contraceptives, and reproductive health education. Her other travels in Bolivia and Nicaragua will take her through a wide variety of economic and social environments, allowing her to see a broad spectrum of factors that influence women’s decisions about their reproductive health.

The children of Thomas J. Watson, Sr., the founder of IBM, and Jeannette K. Watson established the Thomas J. Watson fellowship program in 1968 in honor of their parents’ life-long interest in education and world affairs. The Thomas J. Watson Foundation, based in Providence, Rhode Island, 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. Watson Fellows span academic majors from physics to fine arts, and 23 percent of them are minorities.

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