Two Students Receive 2023 Watson Fellowships to Study Climate-Resilient Food Systems and Changing Water Resources

Claremont, Calif. (April 5, 2023)—To pursue their studies of vulnerable populations around the world, Thomas Martinez ’23 and Ella Meyer ’23 have been awarded the 2023 Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. The $40,000 one-year fellowship is awarded to undergraduates in their senior year so that they can conduct independent study projects outside of the U.S.

An Environmental Policy/Economics combined major, Martinez will travel to France, Germany, Mexico, Spain, Thailand, and Turkey for his project, “Community From Scratch: Building Foodways for Climate Refugees.”

An Environmental Analysis and Critical Global Studies major, Meyer will travel to Chile, Italy, Japan, Nepal, and New Zealand for her project, “Confronting Water Fear: Pathways to Resilience [Through]-Hiking.”

Watson Fellowship recipients (from left) Thomas Martinez and Ella Meyer

“I’m still in a state of disbelief about the announcement. Being granted the Watson came as a complete shock,” said Martinez, who graduated in December. “I’m beyond thrilled that I have the opportunity to see my project through.”

The goal of his project, Martinez explained, will be to participate in community projects in each country he visits and discover the best way to construct climate-resilient food systems that encourage stability and community growth “for people who are often displaced by climate-related stressors.”

Meyer was similarly surprised and excited when she learned of her selection for a Watson fellowship.

“I felt completely elated. I couldn’t stop smiling that whole day,” said Meyer, who also graduated in December. “I also felt a rush of gratitude in knowing that the value of my project had been understood and affirmed.”

Meyer said her project will focus on understanding community resilience. She will conduct long-distance backpacking (known as thru-hiking, which the title of her project refers to) in each of the five countries and study how communities along the trails respond to changes in their water resources.

“I’d like to understand more about how different communities across long-distance trails adapt to changes in water resources based on these five places’ varying political, social, spiritual, and environmental factors,” she said. “I believe that this exploration along trails that I will actively be hiking throughout the year will allow me to not only build my own resilience to changes in water resources, it will also lead to my greater understanding of the socio-hydrological world around me.”

Martinez and Meyer were helped with the application process by Professor of History Carina Johnson, who serves as the adviser for the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship.

Professor of History Carina Johnson, adviser for the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, helped Martinez and Meyer with the application process.

Since its inaugural class was named in 1969, more than 3,000 Watson Fellows have been selected. Watson Fellows are nominated by 41 colleges and university partners across the United States. Following their year of study, they join a special community of peers who provide a lifetime of support and inspiration.

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