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
"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
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
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.