Bethany Costello '22 awarded a Watson Fellowship

Publication Date

The honors continue to pile up for Bethany Costello ’22.

Costello is the latest student from Union to be awarded a prestigious Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to spend the next year pursuing her passion.

Bethany Costello

She is among 42 students selected after nominations from private liberal arts colleges and universities in the United States. The fellowship offers a one-year grant to seniors “of unusual promise” to study independently outside the U.S. The stipend for individual award winners is $36,000.

This year’s class will travel to 73 countries pursuing topics ranging from automation to pollination; from architectural heritage to compulsory voting; from community science to youth incarceration; from activist filmmaking to eldercare, according to the Watson Foundation.

A passionate advocate for the environment, Costello plans to travel to cities across Europe and Asia to volunteer with grassroots and policy-oriented organizations that are working on environmental issues.

“Learning from such a wide range of environmental educators and advocates will give me new perspectives on urban sustainability and help me become a more effective leader, which I will carry forward into my future work on mitigating climate change,” Costello said.

To lower her carbon footprint and to appreciate the distance and time spent in between each location, Costello plans to avoid air travel throughout her project. Instead, she will rely on ships, trains, buses and other modes of transportation.

Costello is co-chair of U-Sustain and vice president of sustainability for Student Forum and a member of the Sustainability Committee. She is also a winner of a $25,000 Green Fee, which she used to have eight new water bottle-filling stations installed across campus to help reduce single-use plastic bottle consumption. Last spring, she was named an Udall Scholar. Winners, who receive a $7,000 scholarship, are chosen in part for their commitment to careers in the environment, Tribal public policy, or Native health care.

“As a Watson Fellow, Bethany will learn firsthand how communities around the world are taking part in environmental activism and climate action, so that she can leverage this knowledge to create innovative, inclusive and impactful climate solutions,” said Lynn Evans, director of National Fellowships and Scholarships at Union.

It is unclear what impact the pandemic or the war in Ukraine will have on Costello’s international travel.

“Regardless of the eventual route I decide on, I am confident this fellowship will test and inspire me in ways I can't even imagine right now,” Costello said. “I am so grateful for the opportunity to grow as an advocate and a global citizen throughout the year.”

The children of Thomas J. Watson, Sr., the founder of IBM, and his wife, Jeanette, established the program in 1968 to honor their parents’ longstanding interest in education and world affairs.

Since the program’s inception, 65 Union students have been awarded fellowships.

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

Bethany Costello ’22

Hometown: Londonderry, N.H.

Major: Mechanical engineering

Minor: Energy studies and a Seward Organizing Theme minor in urban climate change mitigation

Project title: Global Sustainability: Local Engagement

Countries: Turkey, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, China, South Korea, the Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, The Netherlands