Hamilton seniors Mary Phillips, Nathan Schneck and Julia Wilber have been awarded prestigious Thomas J. Watson Fellowships for 2011-12. Phillips’ project is titled “Safe Spaces: All-Girl Environments and Their Role in Community Development”; Schneck will pursue the project “Voluntary Poverty: A Means for Individual and Community Transformation”; and Wilber received the Watson Fellowship for her project “A Single Thread: Producers and Consumers of Fair Trade Clothing.”

The three were among only 40 national winners of the Fellowships. This year, 150 finalists competed on the national level, after their institutions nominated them in the autumn. Each fellow receives $25,000 for a year of travel and exploration outside the U.S.  The last time Hamilton received three awards was in 1988; however at that time the Watson foundation gave 75 rather than 40 awards.

In her proposal Phillips wrote “Safe spaces are environments designed to build girls’ skills and confidence through activities and reflective discussions. I will seek out safe spaces for impoverished girls ages 10-19 in a variety of cultural contexts. By working with community organizations and interacting with girls and their families I hope to understand the diversity of challenges girls face and how safe space programs enable young women to challenge gender discrimination to better their lives and benefit the entire community.” She plans to travel to Guatemala, South Africa and possibly Egypt.

Schneck, who will travel to Thailand, India and Argentina, described his proposal: “Religious communities that embrace voluntary poverty provide an intriguing model that responds to the material and spiritual needs of the poor. My project explores the practice of voluntary poverty across religions and seeks to examine how this practice functions as a means and model for individual and community transformation. I will live among, work alongside and spend time in dialogue within and outside religious communities to experience and understand the transformation produced by the practice of voluntary poverty and acts of service and solidarity with the poor.”

Feature article about Nate Schneck's Watson project in The Montgomery News.

In her proposal Wilber asks the question “How could a piece of clothing bring social and economic empowerment to marginalized communities around the world?” She writes “I intend to examine the Fair Trade clothing market to determine what compels consumers and producers to ‘buy into’ this non-conventional trade system. I want to learn about the cultural, political, social, and economic tendencies around the world that inform this unique type of consumerism. I also plan to live and work with artisans, learning the process of making a piece, from the woven cotton fabric to the colorful dyes to the carefully designed garment.” She will travel to the United Kingdom, Australia, Bolivia, India and Japan.

Mary Phillips is a comparative literature and Hispanic studies major and studied in Spain during her junior year. She is senior fellow for Hamilton’s Community Outreach and Opportunity Project (COOP) where she serves as a liaison between student service organization and COOP administrators. Phillips co-chairs Alternative Spring Break and led a volunteer service trip to Washington, D.C. this year. She is on the executive board and holds offices in Hamilton Association for Volunteering, Outreach and Charity (HAVOC). Last summer she was development intern at Madre in New York City. She has also been involved with Hamilton’s Urban Service Experience.

Phillips is a Deans List student, received the Class of 2009 Community Service Award, was selected for the Doers and Thinkers honor society and is a recipient of the Hans Schambach Scholarship. She is the daughter of John '81 and Kathryn Phillips and  a graduate of Jamesville-Dewitt High School (N.Y.).

Nathan Schneck is a biochemistry/molecular biology major and Dean’s List student. He is site coordinator for student volunteering at the Utica Rescue Mission and a four-year participant in Alternative Spring Break service trips. Schneck is in the jazz band, a member of the Community Chapel Leadership team and an intramural volleyball captain. He is a student athletic trainer and has served as a residence advisor. He was also selected for the Doers and Thinkers Society.

Schneck participated last summer in Intervarsity Global Urban Trek to Lima, Peru. There, he lived in an urban slum community and partnered with NGO Paz y Esperanza where he organized women’s rights workshops and led Christian bible studies with children. Schneck is a graduate of Souderton Area High School (Pa.)

Julia Wilber is an Adirondack Adventure leader for pre-orientation and also served as student director in 2009. She is a founding member of the A capella group Duelly Noted and served as president. Wilber is a member of the Hamilton Outing Club and participated in Hamilton Environmental Action Group. Last summer she was a program fellow for the Fair Trade Federation in Washington, D.C.

Wilber studied abroad in Nepal in 2009. She also presented lectures at her former high school, Downingtown West High School (Pa.), on introduction to Fair Trade consumer values for the Hamilton “Food for Thought” seminar. Wilber has been an active fundraiser for invisible Children Schools for Schools Initiative to benefit a school in northern Uganda.

Wilber is an interdisciplinary studies major with a concentration in social justice, peace and development.

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, more than 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, innovators and researchers across a wide range of disciplines.

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