Two seniors have won prestigious Watson Fellowships to travel the world on a research project they are passionate about. The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship awards a $25,000 grant for independent exploration and travel outside the United States to 40 college seniors nationwide each year.
Harrison Goodall ’16, a linguistics and cognitive science and theatre double major, found his passion through a Claremont McKenna P.E. class he cross-registered in: Aerial Hoop and Trapeze. His research project will take him to India, Denmark, Canada and Ethiopia to explore the connection between the mind and body.
After taking the class, he received a grant to pursue more intense study at The Circus Studio in the Claremont Village and he eventually became a teacher at the studio.
“Through this circus practice, I began to discover how being able to mindfully attend to my physical training made me a better performer and student,” says Goodall, who is associate choreographing the upcoming theatre production "Urinetown" for his senior project. “Through this realization, I began to wonder how physical practices that require large amounts of reflection, body awareness and intention affect the ways in which practitioners view the world.”
Goodall would like to become a behavioral pediatrician, researching and treating development disorders in children, incorporating physical practices from theatre and dance into treatment. “By using physicality in unique ways I hope to rehabilitate children with debilitating disorders without solely relying on current medicines used to treat mental illness, which have variety of undesirable side effects.”
Goodall has mixed cognitive science and circus arts before, working on a Summer Undergraduate Research Project (SURP) with Emily Cross ’01, a senior lecturer at the University of Bangor, testing the effects of inversion and motor expertise of aerial circus acrobats. The research has turned into Goodall’s senior thesis.
Goodall and Cross were connected by Profs. Deborah Burke and Laurie Cameron. “I knew cog sci was the perfect fit when I took the intro class with Debbie Burke, as it fused philosophy with neuroscience, psychology and computer science,” says Goodall. “This interdisciplinary approach allows for cog sci to study larger trends of behavior and consciousness and focus on the function of the human brain in a holistic manner.”
While abroad, Goodall will study yoga, meditation, Alexander technique, physical theatre, circus arts (performance and creation), modern dance and traditional Indian dance.
Alexandra Goss ’16, an international relations major, was driven to apply for a Watson Fellowship to explore how homeless youth and adults represent their own narratives through self-expression.
Goss is a QuestBridge Scholar from the New York/New Jersey area. “I was inspired to do this project as, throughout my personal experience with housing insecurity, I found that I often did not have control over the expression of my own story as there are set preconceptions as to how housing security may manifest itself,” says Goss.
Goss started dancing at a young age, but really began to explore dance as expression in high school as the president of her school’s student-run dance company. “I was able to take agency in creating on stage scenes and dances that reflected my own experience, without the formalities of a director-led company,” says Goss, who also writes as a form of self-expression, including within a creative writing class with Prof. Jonathan Lethem.
At Pomona, Goss has worked with the Draper Center for Community Partnerships on K-12 programming and the Engage! volunteer opportunity program. Last summer, she went to Jordan to research the efficacy of peace programming in retaining alumni. The research has morphed into her senior thesis on the denial and banning of U.S. citizens from the Israeli border. She also works with the Pomona College Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault and has volunteered in the city of Pomona, helping people file for domestic abuse restraining orders.
POMONA STUDENT PROFILES
Perhaps most eventful in her time at Pomona has been her involvement in the Quest Scholars, a student-led community of first-generation and/or low-income students – a self-shaped community like the ones Goss plans to explore on her year abroad.
“In the four years I’ve been at Pomona, Quest has blossomed to provide support, counseling and a community,” says Goss. “Outside of Pomona, like in Quest, individuals have come together in communities to foster support through creativity, expression of self, and fostering personal agency.”
Within the communities in Argentina, the United Kingdom, Bolivia and Morocco that Goss plans to visit, she’ll explore how people express themselves via film, print newspaper, performance arts and puppetry.
“My project is informed by practices that are already in place in communities,” says Goss, who is careful to state that she hopes for mutual exchange, as opposed to further taking agency away by idealistically hoping to “fix” situations or confer her knowledge upon the people she meets. “[It] will be a learning experience for me as I hope to explore some of the modes of expression myself alongside others.”
Goss’s year abroad will also inform her future plans: She hopes to attend law school to work in housing, immigration and asylum law. “But first I hope to gain a more international perspective on housing insecurity before delving into the world of law.”