Time to Jam: Psychology major earns prestigious Watson Fellowship to study music therapy

April 4, 2013

Edward Weinman

Lian Caspi

Lian Caspi ’13 earns prestigious Watson Fellowship to study music therapy around the world

A measure of success: Whitman students and alumni earn prestigious fellowships and grants

It’s difficult to measure success. When it comes to meeting the mission of Whitman College, one metric used to gauge success is the number of fellowships, scholarships and grants students and alumni earn.

Results are starting to come in for 2013. Last year was a banner year for the college, as 37 Whitman students and alumni received prestigious national and international awards. In 2012, Whitman was once again named a “top producer” of Fulbright scholars.

“Whitman students and alumni are achieving tremendous successes again this year,” said Keith Raether, director of the Office of Fellowships and Grants. “Their accomplishments obviously reflect an abundance of talent. But they also indicate enormous initiative, focus and sense of purpose.”

To date, here are this year’s award winners.

Watson Fellowship
 Lian Caspi ’13 (“Lyrical Healing: Music Therapy Across Cultural Song Lines,” Independent travel and study in the United Kingdom, India, Nepal, South Africa, Colombia)

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship
Brandon Fennell ’11 (funding for graduate studies in chemical synthesis, Stanford University)
Nat Clarke ’11 (funding for graduate studies in developmental biology, Stanford University)
Megan McConville ’07 (funding for graduate studies in environmental chemical systems, University of Wisconsin)

Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs
Cory Rand ’13 received the first Coro Fellowship for the college. (one-year leadership training fellowship, St. Louis program)

Critical Language Scholarship (U.S. Department of State)
Ann Chen ’14 (Korean, Yonsei University, Wonju, Korea)

Davis Critical Languages Fellowship
Thomas Friedenbach ’11 (Russian, Middlebury College)

El Pomar Fellowship
Joanna French ’12 (two-year leadership training fellowship, Colorado)

Math for America Fellowship
Lauren Kutler ’13 (Boston program: four-year teaching fellowship and M.A.T. degree funding, Boston University)

DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service)
Hanne Jensen ’14 (Summer Study Grant, university TBA)
Karah Kemmerly ’14 (Summer Study Grant, university TBA)
Jade Blake-Whitney ’15 (Summer Study Grant, university TBA)

Whitaker International Summer Grant
Katie Lewis ’08 (University of Queensland) 

Goldwater Scholarship
Nathan Radakovich ’15 (honorable mention)

Davis Projects for Peace
Lian Caspi ’13 and Alex Brott ’13 (“Building Peace Through Music,” Israel)

Whitaker International Summer Grant
Katie Lewis '08 (graduate research at University of Queensland)

Lian Caspi said she is ready to get her “jam on.”

The psychology major from Bellevue, Wash., by way of Israel, has been granted a Watson Fellowship, a one-year grant of $25,000 for independent study and travel outside the U.S.

Caspi plans to use her Watson to “explore the ways in which culture informs the use of music as a resource for healing.”

“What’s distinct about my Watson project is that I’m getting my hands dirty in the field while also learning and discovering,” Caspi said. “I’ll be helping to provide music therapy while also learning about music therapy.”

Caspi’s field research will see her circle the globe for 12 months, starting in late July.  She’ll first receive grounding in the psychological theories of music therapy while in London. She will then put these theories to the test by working with autistic children at an orphanage in India; traveling on a train with a Nepalese musical healer who teaches music therapy to elementary school teachers; and going to South Africa, where she’ll work with mothers and their children who are dealing with AIDS. She plans to end her Watson in Colombia, incorporating the country’s music into a universal therapeutic program.

“My program starts structured and then becomes more freeform,” Caspi said. “By the time I get to Colombia, I’ll have developed understanding of what musical therapy is and how to effectively use it. It will be an explosion.”

Caspi has a long history with music. She asked for her first piano when she was six. She has sung in choirs and performed opera professionally. When she arrived at Whitman, she expected to major in music, but, persuaded by a child and family therapy course, she found her way to psychology.

It wasn’t until she volunteered to work at a suicide hotline that she noticed the relationship between music and healing and became interested in music therapy.

“Working for a suicide hotline, you can’t see the person you’re talking to, so you have to concentrate on your voice. Use it to console someone,” Caspi said. “Music therapy combines the two paths of my life that I both consciously and serendipitously pursued – music and psychology.”

Discovering unexpected pursuits is what often what students find at Whitman. Caspi credits her time at Whitman for endowing in her a sense of wonder and curiosity.