The Center for Life Beyond Reed

Watson Fellowship

Apply through Reed Fellowships and Awards Committee

Internal Deadline: September 25th, 2019 at 12:00 PM
Liaison: Sam Fey, Laura Leibman

» Scholarship's official website
» List of previous winners
» Internal application instructions
» For Faculty: Recommendation letter advice


The mission of the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program is to offer college graduates of unusual promise a year of purposeful, independent exploration and travel outside of the United States. Fellows enhance their capacity for resourcefulness, imagination, openness, and leadership and foster their humane and effective participation in the world community. The stipend for the fellowship year is $36,000. Watson Fellows must create, execute, and evaluate their own projects. 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 twelve months exclusively in a training course, and do not have volunteer work as their primary activity.

Watson fellows should seek 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 Watson Foundation's decision would be based on how the proposal frames the need to work in such areas.

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


Applicants must be graduating seniors. There is no minimum GPA. Any age or nationality is eligible. Applicants must be nominated by the college in order to be eligible to apply for the program.

Selection Criteria

The Watson Foundation reads and evaluates each application, looking for the following qualities:
  • Leadership
  • Imagination
  • Independence
  • Emotional maturity
  • Courage
  • Integrity
  • Resourcefulness
  • Responsibility

Application Procedure

Interested students should review our internal application instructions. The internal application consists of a completed waiver form, 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. The Fellowships and Awards Committee will interview the strongest applicants and will select up to four to participate in the national competition. Those four finalists will participate in one-hour interviews with a representative of the Watson Foundation. Fellows are announced in mid-March. Contact CLBR Fellowships with any questions.

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Winner Profiles

Picture of Rose Driver '19
Rose Driver '19
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Picture of Rennie Meyers '15
Rennie Meyers '15
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Picture of Sasha Peters '15
Sasha Peters '15
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Picture of Cole Perkinson '13
Cole Perkinson '13
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» All previous winners