Whitman College student Victoria "Tory”" Davidson '15 has been awarded a prestigious Watson Fellowship. The $30,000 award will allow Davidson to travel internationally for a year after graduation to work on her proposed research project examining how theater can help aid the emotional recovery of refugees.
Starting this summer, Davidson will begin a year-long expedition to refugee camps and resettlement communities in Italy, Jordan, Myanmar and Australia to study storytelling through theatrical forms.
"The only thing any person truly owns is their story," said Davidson while talking about her project.
The idea came about during Davidson's years at Whitman College. As a biology major, she was set on pursuing a career in medicine; theater was only an extracurricular activity. But Davidson said she soon learned there were more ways to save lives than being a surgeon. Through Whitman's GlobeMed club and by way of a spring break service trip, Davidson explored global public health issues and the politics affecting refugees both abroad and in the U.S. When theater Professor Jessica Cerullo introduced her to non-profits – like “Clowns Without Borders” whose members use their craft to impact the lives of refugees – her now Watson-funded project started to take shape.
"Nowhere else could I have received such a truly interdisciplinary education," she recalled, crediting Whitman College for much of her personal growth. "Whitman has provided me with a deep interest and belief in people. The campus theater community has been my greatest support system and has helped me build the confidence to realize and pursue my passion," she continued.
Whitman College President George Bridges proudly congratulated Davidson on being selected for the Watson Fellowship. "I admire her desire to study how theater companies can aid in the healing and recovery needs of people who have experienced the painful disruption and personal losses that accompany fleeing their home countries and families," he said.
Davidson had a lot of competition for the Watson Fellowship honor. Almost 700 candidates applied while 150 finalists were nominated from select private liberal arts colleges and universities across the United States to compete on the national level. Only 50 Fellows were selected.
"While Fellows pursue an independent year, they are unified by a depth of passion and commitment to their projects," said Chris Kasabach, Executive Director of the Watson Foundation. "Each of this year's Fellows has taken an organic interest and crafted it into a bold, one-of-a-kind world pursuit."
This year’s class of Fellows comes from eight countries and nineteen states. They’ll travel to 78 countries exploring topics ranging from artificial reef communities to criminal justice; from cross-cultural comedy to global cinema; from childhood education to smart grids.