Loreal Bell is the newest Berea College Watson Fellowship winner.

New York, New York – Continuing its tradition of providing transformational international exposure and life-changing opportunities to promising students, today the Watson Foundation is proud to announce its 45th class of Thomas J. Watson Fellows. The Watson provides unparalleled exploration for forty graduating college seniors in any field. Students conceive a dream-year integrating their unique experience, proven skills and passion and receive support for a year of independent study on an international scale.

Loreal Bell, a Berea College English major with a communications minor, has been selected as a 2013 Thomas J. Watson Fellow with the project, “Prisoner of Words: A Look into Feminist Euro Hip Hop Artists.” She expects to travel to the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden using interviews and documentary production as a tool for connecting with masculine women from the LGBTQ community who are involved in Hip hop culture. “Hip Hop is an artistic expression which often emphasizes male dominance and female oppression, but that doesn’t take the art form away from women,” Loreal explains.

Loreal—a  hip hop artist herself—had this to say about her selection: “The opportunity to travel and live out a dream feels so surreal and exciting at the same time. It is a representation of how progress is tangible despite obstacles.” She is looking forward to learning from hip hop artists who do break dancing, graffiti art, and disc jockeying as well as emceeing.

This year’s class comes from eight countries and fourteen states. They’ll traverse 75 countries exploring topics from coastal disasters to synthetic biology; from music therapy to the ethics of extinction; from digital landscapes to the global shark trade; from youth criminalization to independent film making. “This year’s fellows are a constellation of remarkable students whose ideas cross as many disciplines as national borders. For 45 years, this has been the hallmark of the Watson – a boundless year of purposeful, independent discovery that forever shapes a fellow’s view of themselves and the world around them,” said Chris Kasabach, Director of the Watson Foundation.

Watson awardees come from select private liberal arts colleges and universities across the United States. Only 40 institutions can nominate students for the Watson Fellowship, and each institution carries out preliminary application reviews and nominee selections.  Berea College is one of those 40 institutions, and the only one in the state of Kentucky.  The Francis and Louise Hutchins Center for International Education there administers the process.

From over 700 candidates, 148 finalists were nominated to compete on the national level from which 40 were selected. Each fellow receives $25,000 for twelve-months of travel, college loan assistance as applicable, and an insurance allowance.

About the Thomas J. Watson Foundation

The Thomas J. Watson Foundation was created in 1961 as a charitable trust by Mrs. Thomas J. Watson, Sr., in honor of her late husband, the founder of International Business Machines (IBM). In 1968, in recognition of Mr. and Mrs. Watson’s long-standing interest in education and world affairs, their children decided that the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program should constitute a major activity of the Foundation.

About the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship

Over 2,700 “Watsons” have been named since the fellowship’s founding in 1968. A Watson Year provides fellows with an opportunity to test their aspirations, abilities and perseverance through a personal project that is cultivated on an international scale. Watson Fellows have gone on to become international leaders in their fields including CEOs of major corporations, college presidents, MacArthur “genius” grant recipients, diplomats, artists, lawyers, doctors, faculty, journalists, and many renowned researchers and innovators.


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