What is the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship?

Internal Deadline:

October 11, 2023 at 12:00 PM 

Contact the Office of Fellowships for support at least one month before this deadline.

Watson awards $40,000 to cover living and project expenses for grantees to pursue a year-long project reflecting their passion for and commitment to a concern born of academic and personal interests. While the project must be feasible and well-designed, the year is more about the person's transformation than the project itself. The project should not be dominated by formal research; rather, a Watson year is about personal transformation through international travel and interaction with the world’s people. A true “Watson” project will relish the chance to pursue a deeply personal interest without the constraints of institutional structure, research process, or professional expectations.

A project must take awardees to countries where they have no or little experience (less than four weeks). One awardee might spend six months each in two countries, and another may plan to stay for one month each in twelve. While fellows should establish contacts ahead of time with local culture hosts, they must strive to maintain independence throughout the year. All Watsons participate in a conference at the end of the travel year, where they present on their journeys.

Award Details

A woman writing on paper in front of a computer

How do I apply?

Carefully read the pieces of a Watson application page for detailed guidance on the application itself and the process you should consider to prepare a competitive application.

Information for Recommenders

The Watson recommendation is atypical! Before agreeing to recommend a candidate, please read the overview above as well as this sample form to see whether you know enough about the student's personal qualities to complete it. Sometimes, a conversation with the applicant about their experiences and how they see themselves as a fit will be informative. Ask applicants for a draft of their essays. If you agree to recommend the student, you will receive an email from the Watson application system with a link to access an online version of the above form. Your recommendation is one of only two for this application and is critical to the endorsement decision. Submit it by October 11, 2023 so that the campus committees can use it to evaluate the applicant. We can retrieve it from the portal.

Have questions? Please contact us.

Christine Overstreet, Director of Fellowships
212 Converse Hall


Physical address: 100 Boltwood Avenue, Amherst, MA 01002

Mailing Address: AC #2214, PO Box 5000, Amherst, MA 01002