Samantha Miller '19 and Emmanuela “Ella” Oppong '19 awarded Watson Fellowships

Publication Date

Two Union students will travel the world next year, funded by the prestigious Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program.

Samantha Miller ‘19 and Emmanuela “Ella” Oppong ’19 were among the 41 students selected as fellows from 152 finalists nominated by private colleges and universities in the U.S.

This marks the fourth time in the last seven years that 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, Jeanette K. Watson, to honor their parents’ longstanding interest in education and world affairs. Since the program’s inception, 58 Union students have been awarded fellowships (see list below).

This year’s fellows receive a $30,000 stipend to cover a year of independent study and travel outside the U.S. They’ll traverse 76 countries exploring topics ranging from artificial intelligence to music subcultures; from food insecurity to island innovation; from neonatal to end-of-life care.

Miller’s goal is to become an architect. For her Sophomore Scholars Project, she redesigned Schenectady’s Amtrak Station to create a building reflective of the unique architectural history of the city while encouraging revitalization. While on a term abroad in Vietnam, Miller wrote a paper on the highly innovative design atmosphere developing in Vietnamese architecture. The abstract for her paper, “The Current State of Architecture in Vietnam,” was recently accepted to be included in the 21st International Congress of Aesthetics 2019 Proceedings book.

For Oppong, being awarded a Watson fellowship completes a triple crown of academic achievement. Last summer, as the winner of a $10,000 Kathryn Wasserman Davis Projects for Peace award, she returned to her native Ghana to help children living in an orphanage learn sustainable life skills. She also won a prestigious Harry S. Truman Scholarship. Recipients receive a $30,000 scholarship toward graduate school and the opportunity to participate in professional development programming to help prepare them for careers in public service leadership.

To learn more about this year’s Watson Fellows and their projects visit the Watson website.

Samantha Miller '19

Samantha Miller '19


Hometown: San Diego, Calif.

Major: Studio art with a minor in mechanical engineering

Project title: Poignant Nostalgia: Investigating Architecture through Abandoned Spaces

Countries: Japan, China, Malaysia, Bulgaria, United Kingdom

Description: I propose a study of the relationship between architecture and humans. Through the scope of abandoned sites, I seek to investigate the nuances of emotional attachments developed toward forgotten and ruined structures. My project aims to portray the reflective dynamic connecting communities to their architecture, revealing the value of ruined architecture in understanding the past for future development.

Emmanuela "Ella" Oppong '19

Emmanuela "Ella" Oppong '19


Hometown: Bronx, N.Y.

Major: Biomedical engineering

Project title: Social Entrepreneurship: Empowering Local Minds, Finding Healthcare Solutions

Countries: Kenya, Uganda, eSwatini, Liberia, Hong Kong, China, India

Description: Through my project, I will travel to seven countries to explore organizations and projects with different cultural contexts that seek to empower locals to participate in healthcare outreach and research. On-the-ground observations, hands-on involvement, and interactions with workers and local community members will allow me to learn about these unique initiatives, their similarities and differences, successes and challenges. In addition, I will explore the local environments to learn about cultures and customs and their impact of these initiatives.

Union's Watson winners

At ReUnion last year, the College honored all of its winners of the Watson Fellowship since the program began in 1968:

Vito Potenza ‘69
Study of East Asian Contemporary Society

Arnold Drogen ‘70
Dance and Theater in East Africa

Eugene Kokot ‘70
Regional Problems of Development in Northern Scandinavia

Steven Cole ‘71
Study of Voice and Opera

Steven David ‘72
Analysis of Chinese and Israeli Aid Programs in East Africa

William Dobishinski ‘73
Economic Cooperation The Way to Political Peace

Vincent Foster ‘73
Economic Development

Michael Vanhatten ‘73
Folk Roots of European Jazz

Charles Goodwin ‘74

Robert Cable ‘75
Child Development

Jayne Greenwald ‘75
Martial Arts and Dance

Joseph Bedell ‘76
Blue-collar Workers in Industry

Kit Singh ‘76
Research for Novel

David Hopkins ‘77
Energy Regulation

Laura Shore ‘78
Goethe's Italian Journey

J. Peter Donlon ‘79
Sociology of Amusement Parks

Peter Hooper ‘80
Communal Agriculture

Edward Horstmann ‘80
Symbol and Ritual in Coastal Villages

Michele Beaulieu ‘81

Tamara Wood ‘82
Cultural & Economic Factors Influencing Engineering Career Choices

Jonathan Titus ‘83
Management of National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries

Liesel Golden ‘85
Women in the Military

Melinda Zumski ‘86
Political Theater

Daniel Gordon ‘87
Cross-cultural Study of Baseball

Susan von Reusner ‘87
Women Textile Workers

Vincent Nicotina ‘88
Cultural Formation and Folk Music

Eddy Remy ‘88
African Dance Westernization and Tradition

Yeshaya Poyurs ‘89
Role of Religion in Revolution

Anna Allen ‘90
Comparative Study of Drug Legislation Policies

Gregory Angus ‘90
Role of Toys in Childhood Development

Shelley Szymko ‘91
Changes in the Work Ethic: Integration of Capitalist Ideas & Socialist Ideology

Katherine Rawstron ‘93
Photographing the Disabled

Elisabeth Tripp ‘93
Ancient Engineering

Jacques Etienne ‘94
Effects of Modernization on Traditional Markets

William Wolff ‘94
Writing Poetry in Eliot's Europe

Rebecca Gergely ‘95
Influence of Culture on Educational Goals

Trinh Thai ‘96
Technological and Social Aspects of Ancient Bridges

Jessica Bernstein ‘97
Female Tae Kwon Do Artists

Zane Riester ‘97
Exploring Renaissance & Baroque Churches & Train Stations

Scott Stedman ‘99
Past & Present: A Screenplay on Walter Benjamin

Anastasie Prokhorova ‘01
The Cultural Phenomenon of the "Wunderkind"

Louisa Stephens ‘01
Photographic Explorations: Pursuing the Sun

Nori Lupfer ‘03
Circuses & Stunts: Photography of Entertainment in Motion

Adam Grode ‘05
Long-Necked Lutes from Baku to Bishkek: A Musical Journey in Central Asia

Noah Eber-Schmid ‘06
The Kids Are Alright? Punk Subcultures as Community and Movement

Andrew Krauss ‘08
In the Pursuit of Speed: Evolution in Outrigger Canoeing

Frederick Franke ‘10
Out of the Kitchen and Into the Fire: Exploring Open-Fire Cooking Methods

Burleigh Morton ‘10
Large Format Cargo: Photographing the Shipping Industry

Joshua Anderson ‘13
Holistic Self-sufficiency: Exploring the Intersection of Community, Innovation, and Self

Shilpa Darivemula ‘13
Of Medicine and Mudras: Exploring Healing Through Traditional Dance Cultures

Sean Day ‘14
What Moves You: Exploring The Value of Human Motion Through Cultural Perceptions of Disabilities

Shiqing He ‘14
The Fading Color: Natural Dye Production around the Globe

Karlee Bergendorff ‘15
The Dirty Archeology of Alternative History

Warren Thompson ‘15
Flute Music Across the World: Exploring Expression, Ritual, and Healing

Htoo Wai Htet ‘16
Jugaad Innovation: Making Technological Empowerment Affordable

Riley Konsella ‘17
Stuck in Traffic: Steering Offbeat Transportation Solutions through Human Pushback