Lawrence’s Watson Fellowship nominees dream of adventures

“Explorers, adventurers and independent, self-motivated scholars who are passionate to follow their dream and excited by the prospect of traveling the world to follow that dream.” These are the qualifications necessary for receiving the Watson Fellowship Scholarship.

The Watson is a fellowship program that grants students one year abroad to pursue their passions after graduation. To receive the scholarship, graduating seniors must submit a project proposal that reflects their personal passions and demonstrates why living abroad would enhance these passions. This is what makes the Watson unique— it invests in the person rather than their proposal. Lawrence University has four incredible nominees that reflect these qualities through their own unique and wonderful creativity and passions. I was lucky enough to speak with two of the nominees, Earl Simons and Moreau Halliburton, and discuss their proposals to discover what makes their passions unique.

Earl Simons is a senior from Queens, NY. Simons is a government major on the international relations track with a minor in ethnic studies, and his proposal focuses on jazz and Black identity. 

So why focus on jazz? Simons explained that he has played the trumpet since fifth grade, and he didn’t know if he wanted to pursue it as a career, but he always felt connected to music. He explained, “Not only [do I want] to explore what jazz means to other people but learn about perspectives outside of my comfortability as well.”

 Simons explained that the Black diaspora caused displacement among Africans, and jazz helped Black people create what is now Black culture worldwide. “A prominent component of that is Black music, specifically jazz. Jazz was not only created from creativity but, also, the racist conditions of life,” Simons remarked. He continued, “I want to focus on jazz because of how influential it can be seen worldwide, and I want to see how [it] has sparked movements worldwide and/or has had individualistic similarities between different countries.” 

To further explore the influence of jazz, Simons converses with residents and musicians and plays with them at local restaurants and bars in Appleton. “I want to explore traditions of these different countries and how these traditions create culture and cultural meaning.” Simons yearns to broaden his views of other cultures and explore outside perspectives. 

If Simons receives the Watson Fellowship Scholarship, he plans on visiting five different countries: Brazil, the Dominican Republic, France, Japan and South Africa. In Brazil, he hopes to learn about bossa nova music and jazz influences. In the Dominican Republic, he wants to learn more about merengue, its cultural ties and how this intersects with jazz. 

France has a predominantly West African population, so this would help Simons investigate both jazz and Black influences. Simons shared that Japan is the outlier, as its Black population is extremely small. As a result, he wants to learn why the people of Japan love jazz. Lastly, he wants to discover how jazz has influenced the people in South Africa. Simons explained that he wanted to explore what he calls the “Boomerang effect” in South Africa— that is, how music and influences returned to South Africa during the Black diaspora.

“Exploring outside of the U.S. not only broadens perspective, but it is a necessity to go out of comfortability,” Simons stated. Simons shared that living in an international setting “introduces you to new ideas, customs and cultures.” Simons seeks to “gain an understanding of Black music and global Black identity. Black identity is very different from how Americans perceive it; there isn’t one type of Black identity.”

Moreau Halliburton, a senior from Los Angeles, CA, also believes that living in an international setting will enhance her passions. Halliburton is a Music Identity Studies major, a major which she designed herself. Her proposal is titled “The Art of Beading: Creating Beloved Community.” Halliburton desires to explore her love of beads in different countries around the world and “look at [the] connection between contemporary artists and beadwork and Indigenous bead work.” Halliburton always knew that she wanted to travel and learn about beads; living abroad would aid in her understanding of beads, where they come from and where they are made.   

When asked how she discovered her love of beading, Halliburton shared, “I started making jewelry when I was in high school— sophomore year. It wasn’t until I went to Lawrence that I learned about Ghana and the music there that I got hooked with beading, how beads exist in these different cities and countries around the world.” 

If granted the scholarship, Halliburton hopes to visit Brazil, Ghana, Taiwan and India. In these countries, she hopes to collaborate with and learn from others. “My goal is really to take everything in, be a good listener, a good collaborator and just find my way in these different places,” Halliburton stated. She stressed her desire to learn from these artisans and give back rather than being a burden. “One goal that I have is making more connections and [helping] people in any possible way that I can. One thing that I am going to do in every country is find people and artisans and bead workers who I can learn from and monetarily supporting them with lessons and just finding ways to not only learn from them but give back.” She shared that she does not want to “suck up all their energy;” rather, she wants their work to be a collaboration.

As a result of her love of beading, Halliburton started her own jewelry business, HOMELAND BEADING (HLB). “I started HLB to spread love for Black people and their beautiful cultures and lifestyles,” Halliburton shared. All beads are sourced from Ghana, and 50 percent of proceeds go to organizations in Ghana. She explained that there are many different forms of beading and different meanings; size, color, how they’re made and who sells them matters. Beads were once traded among enslaved people, and this gave the beads various meanings.

Halliburton’s love of beading is indisputable. “Beads can find a way to people. It is a really interesting art form because not many people would initially think of it as an art form and especially the act of making beads and how far back they’ve been around. So my hope for the Watson committee is [that they] see my passion and understand how sacred beads are and how meaningful they are all over the world, and to make the art form and the artisans who do this work to be acknowledged.”

Simons and Halliburton deserve to be recognized for all their hard work developing their beautiful proposals. Their creativity, talent and dedication are evident and should be shared with the world. I also want to highlight the two other nominees that I did not get the chance to speak with: Derartu Ahmed and Maggie McGlenn. Ahmed’s proposal examines the intersection of spirituality and modern medicine, and McGlenn’s proposal focuses on sustainable clothes making and design. We wish the best of luck to all four of Lawrence University’s nominees!

*This article was updated 03/09/22