TACOMA, Wash. – Angelica Spearwoman ’17 has been named a national Watson Fellow, earning her a year of world travel to seek answers to ambitious “big questions” she has posed for herself. .
The University of Puget Sound student is among 40 fellows selected nationwide for the highly competitive 2017 Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. She will receive $30,000 for 12 months of travel and research. Traveling alone, she will visit four countries—working, researching, and meeting people in their pursuit of answers.
Spearwoman will be working with women in Nicaragua, Australia, India, and Thailand to better understand how different societies’ systems encourage and allow wrongful male behavior. The issue for her is deeply personal, and she hopes her work in the area will bring at least some amount of healing for herself and others.
Beginning this summer the Watson Fellow will head off and live independently for several months in each country, following the detailed research plans she has designed. She will work with and interview local inhabitants, government officials, researchers, professionals, and charities and activists. In line with the strict Watson Fellowship rules, she will not be allowed to step back on America soil for 365 days.
Spearwoman, a Californian majoring in international political economy and minoring in Spanish, describes in her Watson proposal how she arrived at this point. Three years ago, she writes, her sister Jessie was murdered. Spearwoman told this painful story at Puget Sound’s Take Back the Night event, which honors survivors of sexual assault. To her surprise telling the story gave her some relief from the depression and anger she had been battling since her sister’s death.
“After the past few years, I understand on a deeper level that there is an amazing power in sharing one’s story with others,” she wrote. Thereafter she found the will to take action and help others exposed to violence.
In Nicaragua Spearwoman will work alongside organizations aiming to prevent and to respond to violence against women. This will include addressing issues related to women’s work, especially in the local maquilas, or factories.
She will then go on to India, where feminist activism is gaining momentum, at the same time that violence against women remains all too common. With help from local experts, she aims to co-develop a community program offering self-defense workshops and support.
In Australia, a wealthy country where one in six women experience violence, the Watson Fellow hopes to learn what men are doing to break the “code of silence” around this abuse. In Thailand she will work with two local service groups and learn from women how they perceive their legal rights. She will study the Thai language and conduct interviews to hear what Thai men and women are doing to address violence and how women are finding safe places and overcoming fear. Spearwoman will write about what she learns.
“I want to see what arises and be open to what possibilities are out there that I have not yet imagined,” she wrote.
Watson finalists are nominated from the Thomas J. Watson Fellows 40 partner institutes of higher education. This year’s class comes from six countries and 21 states. They will travel to 67 countries exploring topics ranging from cancer treatment to citizen journalism to autonomous vehicles. Watson Fellows have gone on to become international influencers in their fields and inspiring leaders around the world.
For more about the Watson Foundation and its fellowships visit: https://watson.foundation
Press photos of the Watson Fellow is available upon request.
Photos on page: From top right: Uluru, Australia (by Corey Leopold); Woman harvesting wheat in Raisen District, India (by Yann Forget); Angelica Spearwoman (by Ross Mulhausen).
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