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Two Swarthmore Seniors Awarded Watson Fellowships

Two Swarthmore Seniors
Awarded Watson Fellowships

by Stacey Kutish

Nell Bang-Jensen and Deivid Rojas were recently awarded Watson Fellowships for the 2011-12 academic year. The Watson Fellowship provides $25,000 for a full year of independent exploration and travel outside the United States. Begun in 1968, the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program identifies prospective leaders in education and world affairs. Bang-Jensen and Rojas were two of just 40 college seniors in the country to receive this honor.
Nell Bang-Jensen'11
Nell Bang Jensen '11

Bang-Jensen's Watson Fellowship project is entitled "Names Across Nations: How the Naming Process Reflects Cultural Identity." She will spend her fellowship year traveling to Zambia, Germany, Morocco, Indonesia, India, Ireland, and Iceland where she will study how the naming process reflects cultural identity. "My curiosity about names is a result of my interest in people and their stories. As more people are able to connect across borders due to recent technologies, names become increasingly important to defining and representing who we are," says Bang-Jensen.

Bang-Jensen is an Honors English literature major and theater minor. She serves as a Writing Associate and as a Resident Assistant, is a member of Swarthmore's sketch comedy group, Boy Meets Tractor, and is Co-Coordinator of Drama Board. She has also been active in regional theater, co-founding the Telephone Bronco Theater Company and performing in that company's debut show, Cartogoraphasia, at the 2010 Philadelphia Fringe Festival, as well as spending a summer working in the literary department of InterAct Theatre Company in Philadelphia with the support of a Eugene M. Lang Summer Initiative Grant.

Deivid Rojas '11
Deivid Rojas '11

The Watson Fellowship will enable Rojas to spend a year engaging with internally displaced people in Peru, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, and Turkey, to explore and learn about their respective stories and experiences. Rojas intends to create an "oral history project" that will share the experiences of the people he meets within the course of his study-travel. He is particularly interested in capturing how these communities perceive initiatives focused on providing them with support and aid and how individuals think about, hope, and plan for their future.

Rojas has long been interested in the circumstances of internally displaced people; three years ago he co-founded Taller de Paz, an organization that works with internally displaced youth in Bogotá, Colombia, his home country. This organization has been recognized by the Davis Foundation with a Projects for Peace Grant and the Project Pericles Fund. He has also served as vice president of Student Council, president of Enlace, co-founder of Swarthmore Overlaps, Intercultural Center intern, and as a Diversity Workshop Facilitator. He is a Gates Millennium Scholar and a Drum Major Institute Fellow. Rojas is a history major and Latin American studies minor.

Learn more about the Watson Fellowship from the Fellowships and Prizes Office.