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Students awarded prestigious Goldwater scholarship, Watson fellowship

April 3, 2020

Despite drastic changes to Bowdoin’s academic program since the College’s shift to remote learning, students continue to receive national recognition for their academic work.

Anneka Williams ’21 and Zoe Dietrich ’21 were awarded the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, which grants students pursuing research in the sciences up to $7,500 towards their senior year tuition. Emily Oleisky ’20 and Hailey Wozniak ’20 won Watson Fellowships, which will fund a one-year travel experience to explore an area of their interest.

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation announced that it had awarded 396 scholarships for the 2020-2021 academic year, from an estimated pool of over 5,000 students.

Assistant Director of the Center for Cocurricular Opportunities Corey Colwill noted that it is remarkable for two Bowdoin students to be awarded this prestigious scholarship in one year.

“It is unusual,” said Colwill in a phone interview with the Orient. “We haven’t had a scholarship recipient since 2016, and we haven’t had multiple awards in one year since 2010.”

To qualify for the Goldwater scholarship, students must write an essay detailing a research project that they have either worked on in the past or intend to pursue in the future.

Williams, a biology major and an earth and oceanographic science (EOS) minor, wrote her essay about conducting arctic ecology research in Alaska. Dietrich, a double major in biochemistry and EOS, wrote about her experience last summer exploring the microbial ecology of an undersea cavern, known as a blue hole, in the West Florida shelf.

Both Williams and Dietrich intend to pursue doctorates in the sciences in the future.

According to the Watson Foundation’s website, the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship is a one-year grant for “purposeful, independent exploration outside the United States.” Fellows are nominated by the Watson Foundation’s 41 partner institutions and then selected nationally. This year, there are 47 fellows.

To apply for the fellowship, students must design a one-year travel itinerary centered around a particular area of interest. They are given $36,000 to cover their expenses, with the expectation that they will not return to the United States for the duration of their itinerary.

Oleisky plans to visit the Netherlands, Italy, Kenya, Bangladesh, Peru and Mexico, where she will study narrative medicine, a medical field that seeks to understand individual health experiences through journaling and storytelling.

Oleisky became interested in applying for the Watson Fellowship after she spent the fall semester of her junior year traveling in Vietnam, South Africa and Argentina, studying global health.

“I really liked the format of being able to be out in an experiential learning model and just out in the world, learning from the world and thinking about these big questions,” said Oleisky in a phone interview with the Orient.

Wozniak will travel to Senegal, India, Brazil and South Korea to explore the relationship between fashion, culture and self-expression. Wozniak is intrigued by the ways that people present themselves, an interest she has explored as one of the co-founders of Avant-Garb Magazine, a fashion and style publication on campus.

“Every place [I’m going to] is very interesting and complicated for its own reasons,” said Wozniak in a phone interview with the Orient. “The thing that I find very exciting about this project is that every place sort of has a story about how fashion or expression is used to confine but also liberate people in a way.”

Colwill noted the importance of these students’ achievements.

“The fact that our students are getting a premier liberal arts education while simultaneously being recognized for their research, excellence and potential really reveals the strength of our research programs at Bowdoin and the caliber of our students,” Colwill said.

Oleisky said that she was very grateful and excited to receive the fellowship, especially given how distressing the past weeks have been.

“Knowing that in the midst of these very hectic times that someone believed in my idea and that I’m going to now be able to carry it out was just overwhelming,” said Oleisky.


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