Erin Flannery ’23 and Sarah Shelton ’23 are Colgate University’s 2023 Watson Fellowship recipients.
The Watson Fellowship provides awardees $40,000 to fund yearlong travel to multiple countries to pursue independent, purposeful projects. A Watson year provides fellows with the opportunity to test their aspirations and abilities through a personal project experienced on an international scale. This year’s 55th class of Watson Fellows includes students from 20 states and four countries with a broad range of backgrounds and experiences.
Erin is an international relations and geography double major from Warwick, N.Y. On campus, she is a Lampert Scholar, Benton Scholar, and Innovation Fellow. During her semester abroad on the spring 2023 Geneva Study Group, Erin interned for MADE51, a UNHCR initiative that brings market access to refugee artisans. She supported the expansion of MADE51 to areas of concern by liaising with local social enterprises that reflect the mission’s free-trade and ethical values.
For her Watson project, “Refugee Inclusion Through Entrepreneurship,” Erin will join social enterprises and refugee-owned businesses in India, Kenya, and Turkey to learn how entrepreneurship can be deployed to preserve refugees’ unique cultures and skills and foster their inclusion.
Erin’s project is an extension of herself, as a person with great passion for refugees, and a reflection of the ways in which she was shaped by her childhood in a small, interdependent agricultural community. Her proposal results from her experiences as someone who cares for the needs of people on the margins.
Sarah is an educational studies and psychology double major from Denver, Colo. At Colgate, she is a bystander intervention facilitator, link, co-founder of Colgate Disability Activists, and a group leader for Colgate Buddies. During summer 2022, she conducted research for Pathfinder Village, using an intellectual–disability friendly survey and drawing interviews to accumulate information on the social, emotional, and physical effects of COVID-19 on people with Down syndrome.
While ability and disability are often construed as mutually exclusive, Sarah’s Watson project, “Investigating the Spectrum of Ability,” will test this notion and explore the spectrum of ability. She will engage with artists, educators, and activists who either experience multiple disabilities themselves or who work with such individuals in some applied capacity.
This multifaceted journey will include interaction with a queer hiking group in Canada and a coalition of disabled women in Spain, fighting for political recognition and disability justice. She will also visit a former asylum in New Zealand with a history of violence against indigenous Maori with disabilities.
Sarah’s interest in the complexities of disability over time, her coursework at Colgate, and the passion and advocacy she has brought to this phenomenon throughout her life make this project distinctly hers.