Two Union students named Watson Fellows

Publication Date

Seniors Shiqing “Licia” He and Sean Day are the latest Union students to be awarded a prestigious Thomas J. Watson Fellowship.

He and Day were among 41 students selected as Watson Fellows from more than 700 candidates nominated by private liberal arts colleges and universities in the United States.

This marks the second straight year the College has two Watson fellows. The program was established in 1968 by the children of Thomas J. Watson, Sr., the founder of IBM, and his wife, Jeannette K. Watson, to honor their parents’ longstanding interest in education and world affairs.

This year’s fellows each receive a $28,000 stipend to cover a year of independent study and travel outside the U.S.

They will visit 81 countries exploring topics ranging from global hacking to poetry; climate change to community radio; butterfly ranching to body part commodification.

"This is always a very competitive program, and we put forward an excellent slate of nominees this year,” said Maggie Tongue, Union's Watson liaison. “We are very proud of all the hard work that they did. Even the applicants who are not selected learn a lot about themselves and their fields by putting together a Watson project. We know that Sean and Licia will make the most of the amazing opportunities that the Watson Fellowships open to them."

The College’s most recent Watson winners include Joshua Anderson ’13 with "Holistic Self-Sufficiency: Exploring the Intersection of Community, Innovation, and Self” and Shilpa Darivemula ’13 for her project, “Of Medicine and Mudras: Exploring Healing through Traditional Dance Cultures.”

Other recent winners include Frederick (Rahde) Franke ’10; James Morton ’10; Andy Krauss ’08; Noah Eber-Schmid ’06; Adam Grode ’05; and Nori Lupfer ‘03.

Hometown: West Nyack, N.Y.
Major: Bioengineering
Project: “What Moves You: Exploring the Value of Human Motion Through Cultural Perceptions of Disabilities”
About his project: “The purpose is to explore cultural perceptions of physical disabilities in the United Kingdom, Sierra Leone, Switzerland, India and Japan. I want to understand the ways in which these perceptions influence the lives of individuals with limited mobility. I hope to develop a better understanding of how cultures mold the identity of the disabled, and the role of human motion in each of these countries. This project lies at the intersection of my two biggest interests: healthcare and human motion. Majoring in bioengineering has exposed me to a broad range of health topics, and I've developed an interest in physically limiting conditions through various research experiences. I've always valued motion as a source of creativity and expression, and I am excited about the opportunity to explore how physically disabled individuals overcome challenges to continue defining themselves this way.”
How Union shaped his academic interests
“Through the past four years, I have had the freedom to pursue these interests in a way that would be possible only at a school like Union. As an undergraduate, I was able to research fracture healing in Professor (Jennifer) Currey's lab, and I am currently designing a low-cost prosthetic arm for amputees in developing countries. The combination of the liberal arts with engineering is a unique experience that has allowed me to become a well-rounded aspiring engineer.”

Hometown: Kunming, Yunnan, China
Majors: Computer Science, Studio Art
Project: “The Fading Color: Learning and Documenting Natural Dye Production Around the Globe”
About her project: “Natural dyes create non-toxic and eco-friendly colors that are sadly being replaced by synthetic coloring. Extracting natural dye from plants and animals is a traditional art that contains the combined wisdom of many. I will live with dye-producing communities to learn more about natural dye from artists who are using these eco-friendly pigments. At the same time, I want to use my brushes and camera to document this amazing art and present this ancient media in new ways.”
How Union shaped her academic interests
“I wasn’t even thinking about becoming an art student before I came to Union. Luckily, I’ve had some great professors who helped me to find my passions and interests in the past few years. Professor (Sandra) Wimer, my dearest art advisor, is always there to encourage me and help me. Without her, I probably would never have been an artist. Professor (Walter) Hatke, Professor (William) Zwicker and Professor (Valerie) Barr also helped me significantly in terms of finding my passion. With their help, I realize that I can be an artist and scientist at the same time.”