Sydney Mack

Staff Writer

Last week, the college announced four Watson Fellowship nominees. Seniors Xzavier Killings, Alec Rotunda, Isabel McLain and Elizabeth Welliver are among a group of potential Watson Fellows from forty private colleges and universities throughout the United States.

The Watson Fellowship awards its recipients $30,000 each for a year of international travel to pursue a self-designed research project. The Davidson nominees’ projects represent a wide variety of interests and potential destinations.

Killings proposes a project to study integrated healthcare in a variety of countries. “I plan to travel the world to different places, like Ghana, Zambia, India, Belize, to study what different organizations and structures are in place to help patients reach what I call ultimate healing,” says Killings. Ultimate healing, Killings explains, is “healing that transcends typical doctor-patient interaction out into the community.” By exploring the health practices of other countries, Killings hopes his project would assist his journey to become a family physician with a focus on ultimate healing, as well as be a personally challenging experience. “The Watson will really test my confidence, test my cultural exploration, test my ability to form meaningful relationships,” he said.

Rotunda’s proposed project focuses on the impact of soccer abroad. “I plan to go to four different [soccer] clubs, or academies depending on what country I’m in, and fit into what they’re doing,” Rotunda said. He would travel to Germany, Ghana, India, and South Africa to step in as a coach or other role, acting as a mentor and involving himself in the soccer communities. He is passionate about the potential for character development that soccer offers young players. “As much as education is about learning and soccer is about playing and having fun, it can be so much more.”

Rotunda’s year with the Watson Fellowship would be his first taste of international travel. “I myself have never been abroad. I’ve been playing soccer here for four years, “ he said. “With that, I’ve developed a hunger for international experience and what that brings.” He hopes that through the Watson he will be immersed in environments working to develop young people through soccer and education, which he says could inform a potential career of a coach or teacher.

McLain plans to explore how different communities around the world use art to enact change. McLain defines “community art” as “art that is used for economic empowerment, conflict resolution, and rehabilitation after crises.” She specifically plans to examine art in Northern Ireland, South Africa, Ethiopia and Cambodia. As a member of a mixed race family–two of her brothers were adopted from Ethiopia–art has been a tool for McLain in sharing her own story and life experiences. This inspiration allows her to see art as means of connection.

Even as an artist, McLain does not know what to expect from her project. “I’m excited [about the Watson] because I don’t actually know what people do with art. I’m going in with a really open mind. I don’t know what to expect,” she said.

Elizabeth Welliver applied to the Watson after dreaming about it since freshman year. She wants to look “at women’s participation in food rituals in India, Indonesia, Bolivia, and Thailand” as a way of learning about the relationship between women, food and faith. Growing up in an Italian household, food and cooking has always been a means of connection for Welliver.

“I’m relentlessly passionate about the opportunity to spend time with women in dialogue,” she added.

To combine these two passions, Welliver hopes to place herself in the middle of many groups of women and spend time eating, cooking and farming with them, embedding herself in the life of a community.

The next steps for the nominees are interviews with the Watson Foundation in January, and the final recipients will be announced in March. Welliver says she tries to focus on her personal enrichment rather than simply the outcome. “Through the application process, I’d learn valuable information about myself whether or not I progressed,” she said.