Originally published in the Union College Magazine, Spring 2013
Joshua Anderson likes things simple. The mechanical engineering major helps run his parents’ self-sufficient farm in Maine, spent part of winter break traipsing around Paris with little but his backpack and doesn’t own a cell phone.
Shilpa Darivemula loves medicine and dance. A premed student majoring in biology and Spanish, Darivemula has performed Kuchipudi, a classical Indian dance, since she was eight years old. She has also taught dance to inner-city youth and interned in dance therapy.
The two students are among 40 nationwide who have been awarded a prestigious Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to spend the next year pursuing their passion.
The fellowship offers a one-year grant to seniors “of unusual promise” to study independently outside the United States. The stipend for individual award winners is $25,000.
Anderson will travel through the United Kingdom, Denmark, Belgium, Nepal and Tanzania in support of his project, “Holistic Self-sufficiency: Exploring the Intersection of Community, Innovation, and Self.”
Tapping into his engineering background, he plans to immerse himself in ecovillages, monasteries and other self-sufficient communities to see how they provide basic necessities like utilities, shelter and farming.
For her independent study abroad last winter, Darivemula lived with indigenous Mapuche communities in Chile. There, she witnessed the power of communal healing through traditional dance.
Her Watson project, “Of Medicine and Mudras: Exploring Healing through Traditional Dance Cultures,” continues that theme. Darivemula plans to visit Bolivia, Ghana, Indonesia and Cambodia. She will fuse her background in medicine with the mudras, or hand gestures, used to narrate stories in four traditional dances.