Thomas J. Watson Fellowship

The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship is a grant that enables graduating seniors to pursue a year of independent study outside the United States. The Fellowship Program was established by the children of Thomas J. Watson, the founder of IBM.

The fellowship itself grants recipients money to spend one year traveling in pursuit of their projects. Recipients are forbidden from reentering the United States and their home country for one year. Projects are not academically oriented, as the fellowship is intended to encourage exploration and new experiences rather than formal research. Currently the award is $25,000 per fellow or $35,000 for a fellow traveling with a spouse or dependent. The stipend also provides student loan repayment for the duration of the fellowship. Unlike many fellowships, the Watson Foundation requires no tangible output, emphasizing that the grant is an investment in a person rather than a project. During their travels the Fellows remain unaffiliated with a college or university, instead planning and administering their projects themselves. They are barred from working on a paying job, and are discouraged from joining organized volunteer projects for substantial periods of time.

Only graduates of 40 highly-selective small colleges are eligible. Institutions eligible to nominate Watson Fellows are esteemed small liberal arts colleges with an undergraduate population of fewer than 3,000 students. Since the program's inception in 1968, the foundation has awarded over 2,500 fellowships. Among the former Watson Fellows are included numerous diplomats, scholars, doctors, and artists. The breadth of experiences is so diverse as to include both the late Sudanese Vice-President John Garang as well as Tony Award winning Broadway director Julie Taymor.
Eligible Institutions for Watson Fellowships
Notable Watson Fellows

Nancy Bekavac, former President of Scripps College
Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize winning author and columnist
Tom Cole, U.S. Congressman from Oklahoma
John Garang, late Commander-in-Chief of the Sudanese People's Liberation Army and Vice-President of Sudan
David Grann, American journalist and best-selling author
Edward Hirsch, poet, President of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation
John Payton, Civil Rights attorney
Steve Raichlen, BBQ Chef, author, and PBS cooking show host
Eric Rosengren, President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston
David Shipley, New York Times Op-Ed Editor
Julie Taymor, Oscar nominated, Emmy and Tony award winning director
Eileen Wilson-Oyelaran, President of Kalamazoo College

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