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Beth Sorensen
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Three Reed College seniors have been awarded Thomas J. Watson Fellowships for pursuit of independent international research projects during the 2001-02 academic year. Lena Eberhart of Phillipsburg, Maine, a religion major, will study perceptions of children with Down syndrome in Turkey, New Zealand, South Africa, and Spain. Kraig Kraft of Albuquerque, New Mexico, a biology major, will study third world farmers's attitudes toward agricultural biotechnologies in the Philippines, Peru, Mexico, and Brazil. Jared Pruitt of Salem, Oregon, a history major, will "travel around the world by subway" in the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany, Sweden, Russia, China, Singapore, Japan, India, and Taiwan. This is the first time since 1988 that Reed has had three students in one year win the coveted fellowships.

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. Eberhart, Kraft, and Pruitt are among 60 national winners chosen from 190 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.

Lena Eberhart wants to seek out the worldwide challenges and inspirations of raising a child with Down syndrome. She will start her study in South Africa, continue on to New Zealand, make her way to Turkey, and finally end the year in Spain. Eberhart intends to volunteer in schools and other special programs devoted to serving children with mental handicaps, placing a particular focus on children with Down syndrome. Her goal is to investigate the varying expectations that communities have of these children, both socially and academically. In addition, she will study how these expectations shape the way children with Down syndrome are treated and educated at an early age. She hopes to speak with families of the children and compare the perspectives of having a "different" child.

Kraig Kraft plans to explore the application of biotechnology in developing nations. In the midst of writing a thesis on biotechnological technique and having past experience in Latin America, he became interested in the role of agricultural biotechnologies. In particular, he hopes to investigate farmers' various and changing attitudes towards these biotechnologies. Kraft will begin his year abroad with a conference in Brazil sponsored by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Next he will travel to Mexico, Peru, and the Philippines, where he will spend four months each conducting his research.

Jared Pruitt has never learned to drive and therefore has held, since the age of six, a deep fascination with public transportation. During his year abroad, Pruitt plans to tour and study the world by subway, spending a month each in London, Paris, Madrid, Berlin, Stockholm, Moscow, Beijing, Tokyo, Taipei, Singapore, and Calcutta. Having worked on transportation policy and urban planning in the past, Pruitt intends to enrich his understanding of diverse, worldwide public transportation. In addition, he views the subway as a common medium for comparing and contrasting cultures. His study will take into account the ways in which different cultures interact in the inorganic, captive environments of subway tunnels. After completing his dual investigation of both urban planning and urban culture, Pruitt expects to study environmental law and seek a career in urban planning and politics.

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’ lifelong interest in education and world affairs. The Thomas J. Watson Foundation, based in Providence, Rhode Island, looks for "bright, creative, independently minded" 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 20 percent of them are minorities.

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