Amherst Magazine

College Row
Watson fellowsFrom left: Watson Fellows Sarang Gopalakrishnan ’06, Andre Deckrow ’06 and Denise Twum ’06.

Travel rewards

Where would you go if you had a year (and the money) to explore any topic you wanted, anywhere outside the U.S.?

Three graduating seniors will have a chance to answer that question: Denise Twum, Andre Deckrow and Sarang Gopalakrishnan have received Watson Fellowships, which provide “the freedom to engage in a year of independent study abroad.”

Twum, a biology and women’s and gender studies major, will use her fellowship to examine domestic violence in Britain, India, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Uganda and South Africa. Twum grew up in Ghana and came to the U.S. to enroll at Dartmouth, then transferred to Amherst in 2004. During her Watson year, she plans to visit women’s organizations, record oral histories, study the legislative response to domestic violence and examine the role of pop culture in abuse.

For Andre Deckrow, the Watson provides an opportunity to continue research into the role of Japanese gardens as symbols of history and culture. A summer caretaker for Yushien, the Japanese garden at Amherst, Deckrow will travel to Japan, China, Australia, Brazil, Argentina and Peru to consider the connection between gardens, culture and history in those countries. Born in Japan, Deckrow grew up in the U.S. and didn’t begin studying the Japanese language until he was a sophomore. His fascination with gardens is due in part to his interest in historical memory. Gardens, he notes, are one of Japan’s most important exports. “Most Japanese products are sleek and modern,” he says, “but the gardens, one of the nation’s most visible symbols, come from the civilization’s pre-modern past.”

Sarang Gopalakrishnan will use his Watson Fellowship to fund a journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway. While traveling, he plans to write a “half-poetic travel memoir” that will explore the themes of the wanderer, remoteness, history, nature, trains and the ruins of machinery “in a place where reality is strange enough that one often comes upon things for which one has never needed names.” A physics and mathematics major who counts W.H. Auden and Louis MacNeice among his literary models, Gopalakrishnan was born in India and grew up in Tanzania.

The Thomas J. Watson Fellowships are awarded annually to 60 exceptional college graduates from 49 of America’s leading liberal arts colleges. The program was begun in 1968 by the family of Thomas J. Watson, founder of IBM, to honor their parents’ interest in education and world affairs.

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Photo: Frank Ward