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Thomas J. Watson Fellowship

The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship is a grant that enables graduating seniors to pursue a year of independent study outside the United States. The Fellowship Program was established by the children of Thomas J. Watson, a former Chairman and CEO of IBM.



The fellowship itself grants recipients money to spend one year traveling in pursuit of their projects. Recipients are forbidden from reentering the United States and their home country for one year. Projects are not academically oriented, as the fellowship is intended to encourage exploration and new experiences rather than formal research. Currently the award is $30,000 per fellow or $40,000 for a fellow traveling with a spouse or dependent. The stipend also provides student loan repayment for the duration of the fellowship. It has been likened to a "mini-MacArthur Fellowship," in that it requires no tangible output. Instead, the Watson Foundation emphasizes that the grant is an investment in a person rather than a project. During their travels the Fellows remain unaffiliated with a college or university, instead planning and administering their projects themselves. They are barred from working on a paying job, and are discouraged from joining organized volunteer projects for substantial periods of time.

Only graduating seniors of 40 colleges are eligible. Institutions eligible to nominate Watson Fellows are small liberal arts colleges with an undergraduate population of fewer than 3,000 students. Since the program's inception in 1968, the foundation has awarded over 2,500 fellowships. Among the former Watson Fellows are included numerous diplomats, scholars, doctors, and artists. The breadth of experiences is so diverse as to include both the late Sudanese Vice-President John Garang as well as Tony Award winning Broadway director Julie Taymor.

Selection CriteriaEdit

Qualities sought in fellows include: Leadership, Imagination, Independence, Emotional Maturity, Courage, Integrity, Resourcefulness, and Responsibility.[1] In 2018, the fellowship celebrated its 50th anniversary, and published that in that time, over 42,000 students have submitted applications, and nearly 2,000 fellowships have been awarded, making the fellowship similarly selective to the Rhodes or Marshall Scholarships.[2] Unlike those programs, only undergraduates in their senior year at 40 colleges are eligible to apply.

Eligible Institutions for Watson FellowshipsEdit

Notable Watson FellowsEdit


See alsoEdit

External linksEdit