Our Brilliant Students

Two Seniors Nab Watsons

Two Reed seniors have won Thomas J. Watson Fellowships for purposeful, independent study outside the United States.

Environmental studies–history major Rennie Meyers ’15 will look at the formation of artificial coral reefs and history/literature major Sasha Peters ’15 will explore abandoned cities in the Soviet sphere through the medium of radio.

Rennie Meyers

Photo by Chris Lydgate.

Coral Reefs

Rennie’s project is titled Deep Water, Horizons: Artificial Reef Communities, Above and Below the Water Line, and she will pursue it in the Canary Islands, Fiji, Brunei, and Japan.

“From oil rigs to submerged eco-art to coral farms, coral growth occurs at the hands of humans with or without their intent,” she wrote. “By exploring interactions between human and nonhuman communities above and below artificial coral habitats in four island nations, I will engage artificial or anthropogenic reef habitats and the humans who have (sometimes accidentally) created and lived with them. I hope to better understand the ways in which humans continue to alter the marine landscape, to photo document those landscapes, and to consult with the human communities responsible for these new habitats in the face of global climate change.”

Rennie wrote her senior thesis on the development of marine ecology in Monterey Bay with Prof. Josh Howe [history 2012–]. “I am completely off the walls about this fellowship,” she says. “There is a deep sense of promise and adventure for my time after Reed, even with the road bumps that I know lie ahead. I am honored and ecstatic and bewildered that I get to share this experience with Sasha, who has grown so much with me at Reed. Reed’s influence is so present in my project—studying environmental history taught me to find the human narrative and agency in stories of global climate change. I am so deeply indebted to Josh Howe for his persistent mentorship, the efforts of all the faculty and staff that helped me through this project and process, and family support along the way.”

Sasha Peters

Photo by Chris Lydgate.

Radio in Ruins

Sasha’s project is titled Radio in the Ruins and will take her to Latvia, Czech Republic, Poland, Norway, Bulgaria, and Germany.

“The Soviet Union and its influence produced an impressive array of buildings, monuments, and sites that embodied communist ideology,” she wrote. “After the Soviet Union’s fall, many of these places became inessential or unsupportable and were abandoned. Some of those places, decaying as they are, remain today. For my Watson year, I will travel to ruins in the Soviet sphere and make radio pieces about each of them. I aim to encapsulate the rich histories and eerie beauty of these ruins with sound.”

Sasha wrote her senior thesis on the connection between Soviet environmental history and Russian nationalism and how it was reflected in literature with advisers Prof. Marat Grinberg [Russian 2006–] and Prof. Josh Howe. Her first reaction to the news, she says, was “temporary blindness, followed by cold sweat, and then excitement. I want to thank Josh Howe, Prof. Zhenya Bershtein [Russian 1999–], the Watson Committee, and my mentors at Rendered, the podcast I work for. I’m so grateful to Rennie, one of my closest friends at Reed, for worrying and talking and sharing with me, and to Meagan Harris ’15, my constant editor and motivator.”

The Watson year provides fellows with an opportunity to test their aspirations, abilities, and perseverance through personal projects on an international scale. The program offers a stipend of $30,000 to 50 fellows to pursue an independent study of something they are passionate about in a country that is not their own.

Since the program began in 1968, Reed students have won a total of 67 Watson Fellowships, including Cole Perkinson ’13, who won a Watson to go to Africa and research Zimbabwean music.