Isabel O’Malley ’18, recipient of a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, will study the production and effects of therapeutic radio next year. Watson Fellows are awarded a $30,000 stipend to pursue a “year of independent, purposeful exploration” abroad. Hamilton has four recipients this year.
In her project, “Therapeutic Radio: Storytelling, Self-help, & Community Health Care,” O’Malley will observe various radio programs produced by those with mental and physical illness, exploring how people share stories and form supportive, social networks. She will visit radio stations, hospitals, clinics, universities, and public health foundations to learn more about the production process and gather reactions from the community.
Aiming to develop herself intellectually and personally, O’Malley said that she will continually ask, “Why does therapeutic radio allow participants to share content they otherwise might not share,” and “How can a radio program connect and destigmatize people with physical and mental illness within the rest of their communities.” She will also ask what elements of therapeutic radio models make them last long-term, and when does [technology] aid therapeutic radio.
Hometown: Chevy Chase, Md.
High School: Bethesda Chevy Chase High School
On-campus activities: Peer counselor, Psychology lab assistant, Emerson research fellow, WHCL DJ
O’Malley said that her internship at Radio Mambo, a radio station in Buenos Aires, Argentina, during the summer of 2017 helped inspire her. “My fellow broadcaster showed immense creativity, resilience, and peer support,” she said. “This Watson project is a chance to learn from radio communities that share the same qualities with Radio Mambo and differ in others, such as race, ethnicity, age, gender, ability, stigma around mental health, and financial support.”
Having served as a peer counselor since her junior year and studied as a psychology major, O’Malley said that her time at Hamilton also influenced her. “The Hamilton counseling center staff and peer counseling program have made me a better listener, communicator, and friend,” she claimed, noting that her experience helped her recognize her skills and “areas of growth.”
O’Malley also had a WHCL radio show for three semesters with Emma Raynor ’18. Called "Half Moon" like the cookie, they played half an hour of music that came out in the past week and half an hour of recent covers of old songs.
O’Malley will travel to Spain, India, Brazil, and South Africa over the next year, visiting areas that represent a range of therapeutic radio histories, government funding for mental health care, and deinstitutionalization of mental health care resources.
With that range of countries to visit, O’Malley looks forward to exploring a gamut of radio and music experiences. In Barcelona, she plans to make music in percussion workshops at Radio Nikosia, gathering a fundamental understanding of music production. She will later work in Cape Town where she intends to “practice deejay interview skills” with children at RX Radio, the first radio run for and by children at the local Red Cross pediatric hospital. She is also enthusiastic about living in New Delhi and working with Sangath, a non-profit organization, to measure the impact of social media campaigns and podcasts on the institution.
In addition to having worked as a peer counselor, O’Malley has served as a psychology research assistant and Emerson research fellow. During her senior year, she conducted independent research applying and assessing the effects of a suicide prevention program.