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Two Pomona College Students Win Prestigious Watson Fellowships

Afshin Khan '11 and Samuel Gold '12

Afshin Khan '11 and Samuel Gold '12

Pomona College seniors Samuel Gold and Afshin Khan have been awarded the distinguished Thomas J. Watson Foundation Fellowship. Each fellow receives a $25,000 grant for one year of independent exploration and travel outside the United States. Forty fellows were chosen from 148 finalists who attend selective private liberal arts colleges and universities.

Samuel Gold will use the grant to explore “Performing ‘Model’ Humans -- What Puppets Can Teach Us About Empathy” in the Czech Republic, Poland, Japan and Singapore. “Theatre audiences think they project their identities onto puppet performers, yet think they connect with human actors by sharing in their feelings and experiences,” explains Gold. “I want to explore this difference, distinguishing the actual, perceptual and culturally influenced elements of this phenomenon in countries with rich puppet histories.” He plans to examine the intricacies of puppet performance and the philosophies of human actors influenced by puppets by interviewing puppeteers, actors, and audiences about empathy. Gold is a theatre major from Del Mar, California.

Afshin Khan will travel to Bangladesh, Indonesia, Syria, Morocco and South Africa for her project, “In Search of Heroes in Girls' Education.” “Women account for two-thirds of the global illiterate population, and almost three in four illiterate women are found in only 11 countries,” she explains. As she travels, she will be looking for “those heroes, men or women, who have or are trying to overcome different obstacles to gain education or provide it to others,” she says. She hopes to capture their inspirational stories on film and then share her documentary and experiences with others.” Khan is a biology major from Karachi, Pakistan.

According to says Cleveland Johnson, director of the Watson Fellowship Program and a former Watson Fellow, “These awards are long-term investments in people, not research. We look for persons likely to lead or innovate in the future and give them extraordinary independence to pursue their interests outside of traditional academic structures. Watson Fellows are passionate learners, creative thinkers and motivated self-starters who are encouraged to dream big but demonstrate feasible strategies for achieving their fellowship goals. The Watson Fellowship affords an unparalleled opportunity for global experiential learning.”

The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program was established in 1968 by the children of Thomas J. Watson, Sr., the founder of International Business Machines Corp., and his wife, Jeannette K. Watson, to honor their parents’ long-standing interest in education and world affairs. The Watson Foundation regards its investment in people as an effective contribution to the global community.

Pomona College, founded in 1887 and one of the nation’s premier liberal arts colleges, is known for small classes, close relationships between students and faculty, and a range of opportunities for student research. The College has been named a “Best Value” college by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine and Princeton Review.