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~Two Wellesley Students Win Awards To Make the 'World Their Canvas'~

For immediate release:
April 1, 2003

Arlie Corday,

WELLESLEY, Mass. -- It's a dream come true: A generous award for pursuing your intellectual passion.

Two Wellesley College seniors, Jennifer Carlile, the daughter of Rick and Malinda Carlile of Edgewood, Wash., and Suzanne Slezak, the daughter of David Slezak and Denise Zito of Free Union, Va., have joined a select group of 48 U.S. college students who have been awarded 2003-2004 Thomas J. Watson Fellowships. The award allows recipients to pursue independent research projects while traveling outside the United States in the year after their college graduation. Nearly 1,000 students applied for the award, which includes a stipend of $22,000.

"We look for extraordinary young men and women of extraordinary promise, individuals who have the personality and drive to become the leaders of tomorrow," said Norvell Brasch, executive director of the Watson Fellowship Program. "The world is their canvas, and we let them tell us how they want to paint it."

Carlile will travel to the Netherlands, Italy and Austria to work with several groups on her project, "Multimedia Technology in Experimental Theater and Performance Art."

"My Watson project is about experimental art, music and theater that utilizes cutting-edge technology," Carlile said. "I will be working with five to six different groups in Amsterdam, Sweden, Belgium, Austria and Italy. My role during the year will vary from group to group -- I'll be doing everything from writing code for computer graphics to writing music to be included in monthly concerts.

" Slezak's project is entitled "Spinning Around the World: Exploring Hand Spinning with Natural Fibers."

"My Watson year will be devoted to learning the various techniques used to spin cotton, wool, flax and silk in Guatemala, Ireland, India, Thailand and New Zealand," she said. "My exploration will also include the historical, socio-economic, and gendered perspectives of spinning. The bulk of my study will consist of learning the process of hand spinning through apprenticeships with local spinners. Although I have some practice spinning wool on a traditional western spinning wheel, I have never experienced the process of spinning silk, flax or cotton. As an apprentice, one of my objectives in learning these traditional art forms is to attempt to carry on and communicate the knowledge that is being lost as development persists, and hand work is replaced by manufactured crafts."

Both Carlile and Slezak are thrilled by the opportunities that await them as Watson Fellows.

"Being selected as a Watson Fellow is a not only a great honor, but it allows me to combine my two passions, computer science and experimental art and music," Carlile said. "I was first exposed to experimental and electronic music last spring, and immediately felt a very strong connection to it. I began writing music, as well as listening to and reading everything that I could get my hands on by the early pioneers of electronic music. Since then, it has basically become my life -- it's the first thing I think of when I wake up, and the last thing before I go to bed -- all of my courses focus on this topic, and most of my extracurricular activities are somehow tied to this. Receiving the Watson Fellowship is allowing me to follow my dreams. I cannot think of a better way to spend a year. I think this is a once in a lifetime opportunity."

Carlile is majoring in computer science and media arts and sciences at Wellesley, where she won First Year Distinction for academic achievement. In addition to pursuing classes in multimedia and working as an undergraduate researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she also attended the School for International Training in India in the fall of 2001. She is a 1999 graduate of Kentridge High School in Kent, Wash., where she was valedictorian of her class and earned the Phi Beta Kappa Academic Achievement Award.

Slezak said the Watson Fellowship win represents a "remarkable journey" for her.

"Beginning over a year ago, when I started to put my thoughts together during the spring before my senior year at Wellesley, this project has been one of personal growth and discovery, culminating in the realization of several future goals I would like to pursue," she said. "One of these plans is to create a farm school, a project that is already in its initial stages of development. Having the chance to travel and gain experience abroad, particularly doing a project that so closely matches the themes of this future endeavor, is truly an honor. I feel that it is of absolute importance to widen my perspective on myself and my place in the world before beginning the work that my future holds. Not only does this Watson project combine my interest in art, textiles, farming, international development and women's issues, but also exemplifies the notion of self-sufficiency and connectedness to nature that I strive toward and hope to share with others."

Slezak, who is majoring in anthropology with a concentration in South Asian studies and women's development, also earned First-Year Distinction for academic achievement. Among her accomplishments at Wellesley, she has volunteered for two years with the non-profit organization Global Learning, co-leading an international team in Mexico and coordinating a team of campus volunteers.

She is a 1999 graduate of Tandem Friends School in Charlottesville, Va., where she received the Headmaster's Award, Alumni Service Award and the Randolph Macon Women's College Award for Leadership.

The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program was begun in 1968 by the children of Thomas J. Watson Sr., the founder of IBM Corp., and his wife, Jeannette K. Watson, to honor their parents' long-standing interest in education and world affairs.

Founded in 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in liberal arts and the education of women for more than 125 years. The College's 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,300 undergraduate students.


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