Four Sewanee seniors nominated for Watson Fellowships


With proposals to explore a range of topics from soccer refereeing to conserving agricultural diversity, four Sewanee seniors have been nominated for a prestigious year-long Watson Fellowship during 2014-15. Offered by the Thomas J. Watson Foundation, the Watson Fellowships offer college graduates a year of independent exploration and travel outside the United States. This year’s nominees from Sewanee are:

  • Robert Goeller, "Bullying, Bigotry, and the Beautiful Game: Refereeing Soccer around the Globe"
  • Parker Haynes, "The Princess and the Frog"
  • Kelsey Koontz, "Drawing Out and Giving Back: The Othermother, and Women Supporting Women"
  • Tarver Shimek, "Saving Seeds and Breeds: The Global Conservation of Agricultural Biodiversity"

A Watson Foundation representative will be on campus early next semester to interview the nominees. The recipients of the fellowships, who will receive stipends of $28,000 each, will be announced in March.

Rob Goeller, an economics major from Rowayton, Conn., cites a recent Economist article that noted, “You only have to watch Brazilians and Germans playing football to realize that there are profound cultural differences between different groups.” Goeller proposes a study of these cultural differences and the subsequent impact on referees. A year studying soccer refereeing would take him to three World Cup venues, FIFA’s headquarters, and the birthplace of the modern game. In visits to Brazil, South Africa, Qatar, Switzerland, and Great Britain he would study bigotry, high stress situations, and the evolution of soccer to determine how refereeing differs by country, and hopes to discover the crucial and changing role that referees play in maintaining the laws of the game.


Parker Haynes proposes travel to Guatemala, Ecuador, Madagascar, Malaysia, Portugal, Ireland and Wales, where the environmental studies and chemistry major would study thin skin. To understand her own love for amphibians, Haynes would explore the idea of vulnerability in frogs, toads and salamanders, which are threatened worldwide. She expects her own conservation ethic will be shaped by her travels, and would redefine “thin skin” to mean vulnerability at its best: embracing new experiences to explore humanity’s role in nature. In pursuit of glimpsing the world’s amphibian diversity, Haynes would be stretched to confront her own environmental ethic.


Kelsey Koontz hopes to explore organizations that provide care and advocacy for women who have been silenced by violence, stigma or discrimination, with specific interest in groups who balance the tension between respecting women’s personal boundaries and shattering societal barriers. By striking this balance, these organizations play the role of what Patricia Collins calls an “othermother” to the women they serve. In Belize, Ireland, Kyrgyzstan, and the Philippines, Koontz would live among women whose passion, like her own, is protecting other women and drawing out their powerful stories. She is a political science major and women's studies minor.


Tarver Shimek, an environmental studies major from Towson, Md., proposes a project that would allow her to explore the world’s remaining agricultural variety and learn from the researchers, farmers, and communities working to protect it. Her project is threefold: to learn about the integration of agricultural biodiversity into ecosystems by working on farms that focus on seedsaving and heirloom cultivation, to investigate the relationship between local agricultural biodiversity and the culture of surrounding communities, and to explore the scientific processes involved in seed preservation by participating in seed banks. Shimek proposes travel to the Peruvian Andes, southern India, Indonesia, the Himalayan region of India, and Ireland.


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