Seniors Austin Hawkins and Kenyon Laing Awarded Thomas J. Watson Fellowships for 2009-10

Two Hamilton seniors, Austin Hawkins and Kenyon Laing, have been awarded prestigious Thomas J. Watson Fellowships for 2009-10. They were among 40 national winners of the Fellowships. This year, 177 finalists competed on the national level, after their institutions nominated them in the autumn. Each fellow receives $28,000 for a year of travel and exploration outside the U.S. 

Hawkins' project proposal is titled "Earth Architecture: The Keystone to Reducing our Environmental Footprint," and Laing's is "Traffic: Red Light, Green Light? Prostitution and the Modern Day Slave Trade." 

Through his project Hawkins hopes to gain understanding of earth construction, using untreated mixtures of sand, clay, gravel and plants fibers to construct walls, domes and vaults. He will study rammed earth construction, the compression of the adobe mixture into forms, which is particularly suitable for the construction of modern dwellings. 

Hawkins will visit Turkey to study earth architecture and learn how to reinforce and repair an adobe dwelling. Later he'll work at the archaeological site at Arslantepe, Turkey. He will then go to Burkina Faso in sub-Saharan Africa and work with Association de la Voute Nubienne, whose goal is to promote the use of an African building design, the Nubian vault, to combat desertification and housing shortages. Hawkins will then travel to Ethiopia where he will join initiatives to build fuel efficient kilns, domed huts and schools. He will conclude his trip in Portugal and Spain where he hopes to learn modern techniques of rammed earth and adobe construction and their place in contemporary architecture. 

Hawkins is an art and French major. At Hamilton he founded and continues to lead the GNAR club for enthusiasts of extreme sports such as mountain biking, street luging, skateboarding, snowboarding and skiing. He is a member of the Ski Team, leads mountain bike rides and repairs community and privately owned bicycles for the Bike Co-op. He is the head mechanic for the Gilded Bike Guild, a community bicycle system on campus. Hawkins fabricated a three-person bicycle and maintains trails in the campus glen. He is also a member of the French club.

Kenyon Laing's project will investigate how political and social attitudes about prostitution, regional relationships, and increased international contact, affect the flow of human trafficking. She will travel to Sweden, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Turkey, and India where she will work alongside lawmakers, advocacy and religious groups, healthcare providers, journalists, sex workers and survivors, to understand what does and does not work to curb trafficking, and why. 

In her proposal Laing wrote that "an overwhelming 87 percent of trafficking at the global level is for sexual exploitation purposes and 77 percent of victims are female. Rarely do we ask: why are these women taken? What makes certain places attractive to traffickers and why is little done to stop them?"  

As a Hamilton student, Laing studied abroad at L'Institut d'Etudes Politiques in Paris during her junior year. She is author and assistant director of Tatu, a full-length documentary film exploring westerners' interested in indigenous Maori tattooing in New Zealand. 

Laing participated in Hamilton's Program in New York City in 2007. During her semester there she served as an intern for the National Organization for Women, New York, and worked on the New York State Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition's campaign to "End Human Trafficking in New York City." She also directed NOW-NYC's "Block by Block" Task Force.  

At Hamilton she has worked as an Annual Fund Caller, and as an office assistant in the Athletic Department. Laing is Women's Workshops coordinator for the Mohawk Valley Refugee Center; a volunteer with MoveOn.org in Clinton; a member of the Womyn's Center; co-founder of Coalition Against Sexual Violence, and a member of the Social Justice Initiative. She is co-founder and captain of the Sailing Team.
Laing is a world politics and French major at Hamilton.  

The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program was established in 1968 by the children of Thomas J. Watson, Sr., the founder of International Business Machines Corp., and his wife, Jeannette K. Watson, to honor their parents' long-standing interest in education and world affairs. The Watson Foundation regards its investment in people as an effective contribution to the global community. 

In the history of the program, approximately 2600 Watson Fellows have taken this challenging journey. The Watson Year provides fellows an opportunity to test their aspirations and abilities and develop a more informed sense of international concern. Fellows have gone on to become college presidents and professors, CEOs of major corporations, MacArthur "genius" grant recipients, politicians, artists, lawyers, diplomats, doctors, journalists, innovators and researchers across a wide range of sciences and engineering disciplines.

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