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~Two Wellesley College Students Will Study and Travel the World Through Prestigious Watson Fellowships~

For immediate release:
April 3, 2004

Arlie Corday

WELLESLEY, Mass. -- Wellesley College seniors Catherine Brinkley and Anna Kurien are two of 50 college seniors nationwide selected to receive a 2004-2005 Watson Fellowship, worth $22,000.

For Brinkley, the daughter of Margaret and Melvin Brinkley of Las Vegas, Nevada, the award will allow her to travel the world next year in an independent project called "Designing the Ark: A Study of Zoo Architecture."

"I will travel to South Africa, Madagascar and the Ukraine in an effort to understand zoo architecture and the impact of zoos on conservation efforts," Brinkley explained, noting that these countries are home to some of the world's most unique fauna. "I will interview caretakers, curators, researchers and speak with some visitors about their interest in visiting zoos."

Brinkley aims to find out about how zoos work and compile ideas to share with zoos around the world. Among her goals is to determine what kind of housing best showcases an animal, allows for natural behavior and encourages breeding. She will study zoo species' composition and its effect on how we feel about conservation.

"For example, most North American zoos house more African animals that native North American animals, and this is reflected in popular conservation efforts to save Africa and the rainforest while little or no attention is paid to North American habitats," Brinkley said.

She will also research the architecture of cages, hoping to find ones that suit the needs of animals, caretakers, researchers and visitors.

"I plan to discuss the innovative methods of each zoo for showing and caring for their animals in my report," Brinkley said. "I will compile the data I gather and compare it with zoos that I have visited in the United States, Costa Rica and Europe and make my findings available to zoos worldwide through a Web site."

Brinkley says that zoos have changed in scope and outlook in today's world.

"The zoo’s shift from entertainer to educator and the major reconstruction of zoos in North America and Europe creates a special need to evaluate zoo methods of displaying animals," she noted. "As a pre-veterinary student with an interest in exotic animals, I have invested interest in zoo architecture. Zoo architecture not only has huge impact on the health and well-being of the animals that the zoo houses, but also potentially impacts the effectiveness of conservation programs protecting animals in the wild."

Earlier this school year, Brinkley won a Schiff Fellowship, which includes a minimum award of $2,000 to support studies, fieldwork, interviews and library or archival research. She won the Schiff award for her research project, Exploring Behavior: Active Regions of the Brain Visualized with Manganese-Enhanced Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

A biological sciences and Russian major, Brinkley has traveled to Lake Baikal in Siberia, Russia, with a Wellesley College study program, to study another biologically diverse region. She won the Three Generations Prize for writing in the sciences during junior year and has been a member of the sailing and varsity fencing teams. She plans to attend veterinary school following her year of travel and study with the Watson Fellowship.

The Watson award will allow Kurien, the daughter of Shiny Joseph Kurien and Joseph Kurien of Cochin, Kerala, India, to pursue an independent project called "Creole in the Caribbean.” She will travel to Jamaica, St. Lucia, Martinique and Guadeloupe in pursuit of her studies.

“I intend to study international human rights law and go back to my country, India, and work for 10-15 years before embarking on the international scene,” she said of her long-term goals. “I eventually hope to make international human rights law and justice less western-dominated.”

An English and French cultural studies major, Kurien is a United World College Davis Scholar at Wellesley and previously attended the Mahindra United World College of India. At Wellesley, she has won academic distinction and spent a study-abroad semester in Senegal and a summer internship at the Hague observing the Milosevic trial. She plans to attend law school after her year of travel through the Watson Fellowship. As a Watson Fellow, she will study language in particular, which she says can create barriers to understanding and access.

"Exploring and learning Creole in the Caribbean, I shall have the liberty to live and learn in cultures where the mélange of languages is a productive event that has given birth to a legitimate and unique language," she said. "I shall have, for the first time in my life, the opportunity to learn a new language in which the oral is given precedence over the written word, where the only way to learn is by immersing myself in the host culture and learning from it."

The Watson Fellowship offers a world of opportunity to Kurien. "I am deeply honored to have been selected," she said. "I love the structure of the Watson, with its emphasis on world travel. To me, traveling, staying in host families and negotiating the everyday realities of a foreign culture, are the building blocks of world peace. (Journalist) Bill Moyers has said that the aim of education is to be able to imagine reality from someone else's point of view, and this is what I look forward to doing in my year as a Watson fellow."

Since 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in providing an excellent liberal-arts education for women who will make a difference in the world. Its 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,300 undergraduate students from all 50 states and 68 countries. For more information, go to


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