Watson Fellowship Program*

Initial Bowdoin Deadline: September 17, 2014 (noon)
Campus Interview: October 1 - 3, 2014
Bowdoin Final Deadline: November 3, 2014 (noon)
Web site: www.watsonfellowship.org
Campus Contact: Cindy Stocks, Director of Student Fellowships and Research

*Information derived from www.watsonfellowship.org

The mission of the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program is to offer college graduates of unusual promise a year of independent, purposeful exploration and travel -- in international settings new to them --to enhance their capacity for resourcefulness, imagination, openness, and leadership and to foster their humane and effective participation in the world community.

The philosophy behind the Watson Fellowship is to remove oneself from the comfort and stability of Home, exploring the world selectively in pursuit of one’s passion, and discovering along the way one’s potential for humane and effective participation in the world community. The Watson journey is a “solo” experience, to be lived independently but shared broadly with humanity. This is the “Spirit of the Watson.”

The Watson Fellowship program is most concerned with holistically identifying individuals who demonstrate leadership, resourcefulness, imagination or vision, independence, integrity, responsibility and emotional maturity, and courage. A candidate's academic record, while not of primary importance, is also considered, together with those extracurricular activities that reflect both initiative and dedication.

Watch a video "slideshow" created with photographs from recent Watson fellows.

The stipend for the fellowship year is $28,000 (~$38,000 for fellows accompanied by a spouse or dependent child). Each year, the Foundation interviews approximately 155 finalists and awards up to 40 fellowships.


  • Candidates must be a currently enrolled graduating senior at one of the Watson Foundation's participating institutions, be scheduled to receive a degree in the winter or spring of this academic year, and be nominated by their institution.
  • The proposed project should reflect a candidate’s genuine interest in, and long-standing commitment to, a specific concern, whether or not this interest is evident in a formal course of study.
  • The project must be one that can be pursued with great independence and adaptability, and it cannot involve formal study at a foreign institution.
  • The project must involve travel to areas where the student has not previously lived or studied for a significant length of time.
  • The project should be personally significant, imaginative, and feasible.
  • Fellows are not allowed to return home at any time during their Fellowship year.
  • A candidate's academic record, while not of primary importance, is also considered, together with those extracurricular activities that reflect both initiative and dedication.
  • Fellows may not plan travel to countries assigned “travel warnings” by the U.S. State Department, or which are under embargo. (See www.travel.state.gov to view list.)

Bowdoin’s Internal Selection Process.   By the “Initial Bowdoin Deadline” (see above), applicants must either hand-deliver or email the materials listed below to Corey Colwill in the Office of Student Fellowships and Research:

  • Personal Statement (1500 words or less, approximately five pages double-spaced)
  • Project Proposal (1500 words or less, approximately five pages double-spaced)
  • Submit a brief video (Click here for instructions)
  • Unofficial academic history from Polaris
  • Current resume
  • Names of the people who will be submitting letters of recommendation and their relationship to you if you are one of the four students nominated by the Campus Selection Committee to compete at the national level as a finalists
  • Signed and witnessed "Permission Form and Waiver"

Please note:  Applicants should make sure their name is included on each page of each component of the initial application.

The Selection Committee will review these materials, and those applicants deemed most competitive will be contacted to schedule a campus interview.  Based on the submitted materials and the campus interview, the Selection Committee will determine which students will receive Bowdoin’s nomination.  The College is allowed to nominate up to four Bowdoin students annually for the Watson Fellowship. 

If you receive Bowdoin’s nomination, the Office of Student Fellowships and Research will create an account for you within the Watson Foundation’s online submission system. This will trigger the system to send you an email with complete instructions on completing the online application.

Materials for the Final Application. If you receive Bowdoin’s nomination, the Office of Student Fellowships and Research will provide you with instructions on how to access the Watson Foundation's online application system.  By the “Final Bowdoin Deadline,” which is slightly earlier than the deadline posted on the Watson website, Bowdoin’s nominees must electronically submit a completed online application form, which includes:

  • Personal information
  • Biographical abstract
  • A personal statement of 1500 words or less (pasted into a text box within the application)
  • A project proposal of 1500 words or less (pasted into a text box within the application)
  • A scanned version of your college transcript. Watson recommends scanning an unofficial version (from Bearings) to meet the size requirement of 600KB or smaller. A hard copy must be provided to the Office of Student Fellowships and Research one week in advance of the Final Bowdoin Deadline since the Office must certify that the uploaded version accurately reflects the hard copy.
  • One passport-style, digital photograph uploaded to the on-line application (jpg file, cannot exceed 150KB)
  • Letters of recommendation. Two letters are required, with at least one being from a faculty member; three letters are allowed, if one is from an off-campus source. Upon receiving Bowdoin’s nomination, nominees should list their recommenders in the online application system. This will trigger an email to recommenders with instructions on how to electronically submit their letter of recommendation. Recommenders should be in touch with Cindy Stocks prior to submitting their final letter of recommendation.
  • Supplemental materials as applicable and allowed by the guidelines.  Finalists are encouraged to include a budget and list of contacts as part of their supplemental material.

In addition, the Office of Student Fellowships and Research will be responsible for drafting and submitting Bowdoin College’s letter of nomination.

David BruceS. David Bruce '13
"Depicting Cities and Climate Change: Threats, Response, and Outcome in the Face of Environmental Disaster"
Netherlands, Argentina, India, Thailand, China
David graduated Bowdoin with an economics and environmental studies major and visual arts minor. On his Watson year, David is traveling to investigate what densely populated coastal cities are doing to adapt to the water related threats of climate change. He plans on exploring topics involving the measures taken to prevent sea-level rise, storm surge flooding, monsoon rains, or river flooding from causing devastating damage to populations and infrastructure, and to create a visual journal of drawings, paintings, and sketches. David is unsure what he will do when he returns to the United States in 2014. Whatever he ends up doing, he wants to be able to create, design, and never lose touch with his passion for visual art. (Read More)

Teona Williams

Teona Williams '12
"A Search for Playtime: Understanding the Meaning of Nature Among Marginalized Groups"
India, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Dominican Republic

Teona will spend her Watson year visiting developing countries with a mixture of social classes and "breathtaking landscapes". The nations she will visit have also all experienced colonialism, and so have been exposed to Western values, including, perhaps, the Western perception of nature. Williams hopes to collect oral histories of community members to explore their relationship with nature and supplement these narratives by visiting national parks to observe who has access to natural spaces. (Read more)

For a comprehensive list of Bowdoin fellowship winners, click here.