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Beth Sorensen
Office of Communications


Joseph Stoller, a December 2002 graduate of Reed College, has been awarded a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship for the 2003-04 academic year. Stoller will receive $22,000 to support his travel to the Netherlands, Germany, France, Finland, Argentina, Japan, and Taiwan, where he proposes to study how to create, express, and communicate differences through contact improvisation, a style of movement. He is among 48 students selected for the prestigious fellowship from 50 selective liberal arts colleges and universities. Including Stoller, Reed students have been awarded 61 Watson fellowships since the program began.

Stoller, a history major from Boulder, Colorado, believes that contact improvisation, a practice that focuses on internal psychophysical experience and communication, offers a methodology for trying to understand others, including how one interacts with others, that expands beyond other analytical methods. He explains, "While challenging me, as a cultural outsider, trying to understand our differences, my Watson project will offer a way to deeply connect and co-create with people." Stoller believes that this project will prepare him to develop an educational program that would rigorously integrate psychophysical practices, more traditional intellectual disciplines, and cross-cultural encounters.

Watson Fellows are selected in a two-step process that requires nomination from the college, followed by a national competition. This year nearly 1,000 students competed for the fellowships. The Watson Foundation looks for those with leadership drive, independence, creativity, and academic potential.

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 program does not underwrite formal university education; rather, it supports 12 months of independent, overseas research. Norvell E. Brasch, former fellow and executive director of the fellowship program, said, "The program is designed to fund the most creative dreams of our fellows with a minimum of restrictions. The world is their canvas and we let them tell us how they want to paint it."

Reed College, in Portland, Oregon, is an undergraduate institution of the liberal arts and sciences dedicated to sustaining the highest intellectual standards in the country. With an enrollment of about 1,360 students, Reed ranks third in the undergraduate origins of Ph.D.s in the United States and second in the number of Rhodes scholars from a liberal arts college (31 since 1915).

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