Two Whitman students have been awarded prestigious national fellowships.

Liam Voorhees, Thomas J Watson Fellowship

Senior Liam Voorhees from Bellevue, Washington, has been awarded the 2021 Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. He is one of only 42 students in the country to receive the award, which includes a $36,000 stipend to enable “purposeful, independent exploration outside the United States.”

Voorhees, an environmental humanities major who wrote his senior thesis on water issues in the Yakima River, plans to spend the fellowship year traveling to Austria, Vietnam and Japan to study the links between water resources and food production, distribution and consumption in communities centered around rivers. 

Liam Voorhees

Voorhees credits some of his favorite childhood experiences, including growing vegetables in his backyard and river fishing, as sparking his understanding of water as a resource. “I started to make the connection between the water I used to grow my plants and the water I would wade through for fishing,” he says.

At Whitman, Voorhees continued to pursue his interest, studying the politics involved in water rights matters, water conservation efforts and the protection of river habitats. Last summer, he interned with Whitman alum Kevin Scribner ’75, a member of the Columbia River Basin Partnership and Salmon-Safe, who leads outreach efforts aimed at transforming land management practices so Pacific salmon can thrive. As a Watson fellow, Voorhees will dive deeper into many of these issues.

“Particularly what I’m focusing on is agrarian societies and their relationships to waterways … how they use water, whether they redirect it out of the river to farm or whether they farm in it by growing shrimp and fish,” he says. “I really want to engage with those people and learn from them on a more global scale what’s happening in other areas—and connect that back to what I’ve learned at Whitman and in growing up in the Pacific Northwest.”

Kaitlynne Jensen, Newman Civic Fellowship

Sophomore politics major Kaitlynne Jensen of Milton-Freewater, Oregon, is one of just 212 college students from across the country to receive the Newman Civic Fellowship. The year-long program, awarded by Boston-based nonprofit Campus Compact, recognizes students from its member institutions who demonstrate a commitment to finding solutions for challenges facing their communities.

Kaitlynne Jensen

Each year, fellows participate in virtual training and networking opportunities to provide them with the skills and connections needed to create large-scale positive change. The fellowship also provides students with pathways to apply for scholarship and post-graduate opportunities.

“I am looking forward to getting to work alongside people who share the same passion and love for social change and service that I do,” says Jensen, who identifies as a working-class student. “I am especially excited to be able to focus on a project of my choosing and be given the guidance, support, and resources I need to make it happen.”

Jensen kicked off her college career by participating in a Whitman program that offers an in-depth learning experience focused on community needs in Walla Walla and how organizations can work collaboratively to address complex issues. Since then, she has helped register high school students to vote, addressed a city council meeting about injustices in funding distribution and led a fundraiser to donate much-needed menstrual products to local nonprofits.

Her community involvement further extends to working with Whitman Teaches the Movement, a civil rights education initiative; Bilingual United, a Spanish-speaking volunteer organization, and as a weekly mentor to a fourth-grade student. She also serves as a resident advisor (RA) for Whitman’s Stanton Hall.