Maya Sobchuk '22 (left) and Maija Hecht '22 were recently named 2022 Watson Fellows.

“Macalester is fortunate to have many creative and courageous students, which makes the fellowship a great fit for our student body.”
—Dr. Ann Minnick, director of academic programs and advising


Saint Paul, Minn.Maya Sobchuk ‘22 and Maija Hecht ‘22 have been awarded a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. Each of the 42 recipients from this year’s class of Watson Fellows receives a one-year stipend of $36,000, plus health insurance and student loan assistance, to pursue original projects outside the United States. 

Sobchuk, a double major in international studies and political science, is originally from Ukraine and grew up in Los Angeles. For her project entitled “Remnants of Imperialism in Modern Media,” she plans to travel to Mongolia, Namibia, Jamaica and Hong Kong, among others.

“Ukraine is a clear-cut example of a post-colonial country, and the media situation there is also very telling of its post-coloniality,” said Sobchuk. “So I want to go to countries that have also had a recent relationship or break with an imperial power and where some have developed very successful mediascapes after the imperial power left and where others weren’t so successful. I want to compare and contrast and see how that’s reflected, or not, in the democracies of those places and bring back what I find to improve Ukraine’s situation.”

Hecht is a creative writing major from Clearwater County, Minn. She plans to travel to Tanzania, New Zealand, Peru, Iceland and Canada for her project “Bodies of Water: Reimaging Water Stewardship through Storytelling.” 

“One issue that I’ve focused on a lot in my own work, and because of my community experiencing the Enbridge Line 3 project, is fresh water pollution,” said Hecht. “I wanted to look outward at a variety of places that are also facing water pollution issues and work with local writers, artists and activists there to learn more about their challenges and how they’re approaching them.”  

According to the Foundation’s website, a Watson Year provides fellows with the opportunity to test their aspirations and abilities through a personal project experienced on an international scale. 

Watson Fellows are nominated by 41 private colleges and university partners across the United States. 

“Watson is such a unique opportunity because it allows students to pursue a personal passion internationally for the year following graduation,” said Dr. Ann Minnick, director of academic programs and advising. “Macalester is fortunate to have many creative and courageous students, which makes the fellowship a great fit for our student body.” 

About the Watson Foundation

In 1961, Jeannette K. Watson established the Watson Foundation in honor of her late husband, Thomas J. Watson, founder of IBM. The Watson Fellowship is awarded annually to graduating seniors who are nominated by one of 41 partner colleges and universities. According to the Foundation’s website, the program’s goal is to provide opportunities for graduating college students to “explore with thoroughness a particular interest, test their aspirations and abilities, view their lives and American society in greater perspective, and, concomitantly, develop a more informed sense of international concern.”

Learn more about Macalester at

April 5 2022

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