Claremont, Calif. (April 8, 2022)—Pitzer College senior Chloe Ortiz ’22 has been awarded the 2022–23 Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. The $36,000 one-year fellowship supports college seniors with unique independent study projects outside the US. A political studies major, Ortiz will travel to Italy, Ireland, Brazil, and Australia for her project, “Climate Pilgrimage: Catholic Ecotheology in Action.”
“Exploring Catholic human-nature relationships, I will study how those narratives reconcile with Indigenous spirituality and how they can be used to take action toward climate change mitigation,” says Ortiz.
According to Ortiz, ecotheology is “a field of study that lies at the nexus of religion and the environment,” incorporating both her academic and personal interests. She started at Pitzer as an environmental analysis major, then she shifted to political studies to understand how political theory influences environmental policies. Later in her college career, she took religious studies classes to “learn about how people’s religious beliefs inform their politics and their relationship to the natural world.” Ortiz was raised atheist but, in high school and college, began attending Quaker meetings and Catholic Mass.
During Ortiz’s sophomore year, she helped produce the podcast “Discussion Collective” about campus politics with Eli Cohen PO’19, a Pomona College student who received the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship in 2019. Ortiz credits the inspiration to apply for the fellowship from watching his experience.
“The unique mission and structure of the Watson fellowship allow its grantees to dive deep into what we are most curious about, no matter how niche,” says Ortiz. “I’ve learned that I thrive in settings where I’m given a lot of free rein, so an opportunity like this feels like a dream.”
The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship is a one-year grant for purposeful, independent exploration outside the US and is awarded to graduating seniors nominated by one of 41 partner institutions. Described as “a rare window after college and pre-career to engage your deepest interest on a global scale,” the Watson’s selection criteria for graduating seniors include leadership, imagination, independence, emotional maturity, courage, integrity, resourcefulness, and responsibility.
Professor of History Carina Johnson serves as the adviser for the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to help guide students through the application process.