Jackson honored with Watson

Brianna Stapleton

Lawrence senior Micha Jackson was awarded the Watson Fellowship, a grant that allows for a year of independent study outside of the United States.
Jackson is one of 50 recipients of the prestigious award, and will receive $25,000 to pursue a yearlong cultural examination of marine resource conservation in Palau, Oman and Australia.
Last April, Jackson was nominated by one of her professors as a good candidate for the fellowship. Since she was born in Canada, Jackson was not sure if she was even eligible for the fellowship, but decided to attend an informational meeting.
To her delight, she learned that she was indeed eligible, and began to formulate the idea for her project proposal.
Over the summer, Jackson reflected on her career goals and interests, one of which is marine resource conservation. This was influenced by her memories of summers spent at a cottage on Lake Ontario, where she would catch and study frogs.
Since childhood, Jackson has also gone on yearly trips to Florida, where she “fell in love with manatees.”
Jackson continued to pursue this interest during her summers away from Lawrence when she attended The School for Field Studies summer program in the Caribbean Islands. Amidst the frequent snorkeling outings and catching of sharks, her interest in marine resources deepened.
Upon returning to Lawrence, Jackson’s love of the water, passion for the environment, and knowledge of governmental programs synthesized into one outstanding proposal. She consulted with professors to gain insight on her ideas before submitting the application to the on-campus committee that reviews project proposals.
This panel selected 10 Lawrence students for on-campus interviews, and the four top proposals were then selected from this round. Shortly after, the executive director of the Watson Fellowship Program came to Lawrence to interview the four candidates.
Jackson’s very personal project and passion for her subject caught the program’s attention, and March 15 Jackson found out that she had been awarded the fellowship.
“They told us that they would be sending an e-mail to the recipients,” she recalled. “I woke up at 3:30 a.m. to check my e-mail, and sure enough, there was a message from them saying ‘Congratulations!'”
Jackson’s year abroad will take her to three different countries where she will examine the problem-solving approaches of governments and environmental organizations as they face coastal conservation issues.
Though her project proposal was well thought out, she still has many details to wrap up before embarking on her journey in August.
“It’s very open ended; it’s a personal development program. I think it’s great – but very intimidating,” said Jackson.
Watson Fellowship recipients are encouraged to reflect on their experiences abroad and use them as a tool for personal growth.
Jackson will face some challenges: finding a place to live in each country, adapting to local culture, and using the awarded money effectively. “I picked expensive places to travel,” she laughed.
Luckily, Jackson has identified contacts in each country to help launch her studies. A professor from the School for Field Studies program that she attended is now working in Oman, and Jackson plans to meet up with him and hopefully connect with other academics and environmentalists who can assist her research.
After returning from her yearlong adventure, Jackson plans to find a full-time position working in an environmental field through the government, perhaps in Canada’s Ministry of the Environment.
She also wants to explore environmental consulting. “It’s a fascinating emerging field,” she says.
Associate Professor of English Timothy Spurgin, the Lawrence liaison for the Watson Fellowship, is excited to see what the future holds for Jackson. “More than anything else, the fellowship year seems to build confidence,” he said.
“People learn a whole lot about the world – and a lot about themselves too – and they come back feeling they’re ready for anything,” said Spurgin.
Jackson encourages students who are seeking personal fulfillment after college to apply for next year’s fellowship. “Your project must be believable and based on a lifelong interest,” she advised.
Spurgin also encourages students with big dreams to think about the possibility of a fellowship in their future.
“Go for it,” says Spurgin. “This is your chance to pursue a lifelong dream, to visit the places you’ve always read and heard about.