What could be more fun that a fully funded year of international study and travel? That’s what’s in store for Morgan Sleeper ’11 (Deland, Fla.) and Keren Yohannes ’11 (Louisville, Ky.), who were awarded Thomas J. Watson Fellowships—one-year grants for independent study and travel outside the United States.

The fellowships, awarded annually to 40 graduating college seniors from select private liberal arts schools, offer college graduates of “unusual promise” a year of independent, purposeful exploration and
travel in international settings new to them to enhance their capacity for resourcefulness, imagination, openness, leadership, and participation in the world community.

The students are each awarded a $25,000 stipend to execute and evaluate a project over the year. Sleeper, a linguistics major, has developed a project called “Ceol agus Comhrá: Music and Language Revitalization in the Celtic Fringe,” which will take him to Wales, Scotland, Cornwall, Argentina, Isle of Man, Canada, France (Cape Breton), and Ireland.

“I’ll be traveling to these Celtic nations and diaspora regions to look at all the ways people are using music to help revitalize the endangered Celtic languages,” says Sleeper.

For Yohannes, who majored in international studies, receiving the Watson was personal. “As the daughter of a refugee from Eritrea, displacement and disability are central to my family’s history,” she says. The Watson “is the opportunity to witness firsthand the factors that shape the experiences of persons with disabilities in post-conflict states.” Yohannes’s project, “To Build a Ramp: Disability Rights in Post-Crisis Contexts,” will take her to Sierra Leone, Uganda, New Zealand, Thailand, and Jordan.

There she will learn from organizations working with disabled people living in post-conflict states and countries of resettlement.

July 14 2011

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