Clingen wins Watson Fellowship, Terrell wins Zeff Fellowship

Duncan College senior Kira Clingen has been awarded a 2016 Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, a highly competitive award that will provide $30,000 for a year of international travel to do a research project after she graduates from Rice.

Baker College senior Emma Terrell has been awarded the Roy and Hazel Zeff Memorial Fellowship, which also supports a year of world travel and independent study. The Zeff Fellowship is given to the Rice student who was ranked highest by the Rice Faculty Committee on Fellowships and Awards but did not receive a Watson Fellowship.

Kira Clingen

Kira Clingen

Clingen was among 40 Watson Fellows chosen for their promising potential from more than 150 candidates nominated at select private liberal arts colleges and universities across the United States.

Clingen, who is majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology, Asian studies and policy studies, said she plans to “immerse herself in the communities most at risk of climate-based migration, whether due to sea-level rise, increased instances of drought or erratic weather patterns, and observe and participate in the localized actions and advocacy that families and small groups are undertaking to mitigate their risk to these changes.”

Her Watson year will begin in Shanghai, where Jewish diaspora resettled during the Holocaust and are now third-generation Chinese citizens “who have forged an identity in a foreign nation that accepted them, but left almost all vestiges of their original culture in Europe,” she said. From there Clingen will travel to Russia’s Far East, where she will study how the nomadic Nenets and Dogans carry their culture across a changing landscape; to the Maldives, an atoll in the Indian Ocean projected to be underwater by 2100; to New Zealand, where Tuvaluans have resettled as “climate refugees”; to Uganda, where large, foreign agribusinesses have displaced local sustenance farmers; and to Rotterdam, the Netherlands, “a showcase for future technologies the will adapt to the altered landscape of climate change and sea-level rise,” she said.

“The path that I am following during my year is an attempt to chronologically understand environmental migration, beginning in a place where refugees have lived for years and ending in a city determined to preserve itself through advancements in engineering technology and infrastructural investment,” Clingen said.

The idea for her project sprang from her studies at Rice in ecological research and environmental policy. “I found there is such a wealth of data available to project climate change, but so little documentation as to what small communities that aren’t well-funded can do to mitigate their risk to the symptoms of these predictable changes,” she said. “Similarly, there’s little information on environmental migrations throughout history and the ways that people can prepare themselves and their culture to undertake a move.”

After her Watson year, Clingen plans to pursue a master’s degree in environmental policy. “I’m interested in demystifying and conveying environmental research to the public and turning those scientific lessons into applicable programs and policies,” she said.

Emma Terrell

Emma Terrell

Terrell, a music major in percussion performance, will travel to five countries during her Zeff year to study “the small but growing number of women percussionists in the world to understand the changes in cultural and socio-economic trends that have allowed them to come together,” she said.

Percussion has long been a field in which men dominate, Terrell said, and women have been subject to discrimination because of tradition, status or gender mandates.

“Although there has been an increase in women’s inclusion, they still face many prejudices and hardships,” she said.

She will travel to Peru, Rwanda, South Africa, India and Indonesia — places where women have been prevented from participating in the traditional music scene — to study what women percussionists have done to become accepted, how the roles of women in the traditional music scene reflected more general roles of women within these cultures and whether an increased acceptance of women percussionists will help advance broader roles of women.

“I’m studying women who have broken these barriers and used drumming as more of a community base to actually give a voice to young girls and women and bring people together,” Terrell said.

In Rwanda, for example, a country that was torn apart by genocide in the 1990s, a woman named Kiki Katese started a drumming troupe that brought together women from both sides of the genocide conflict. The members, Terrell said, are not only building new relationships, fostering hope and healing wounds of the past, but gaining acceptance and fame and often actually making money through their performances.

In India, where for centuries there were specific instruments that only women could play and ones that only men could play, Anuradha Pal overcame discrimination and chauvinism to become the country’s first professional female player of the tabla.

Terrell will be working with Pal, who is empowering women as a role model, as a lecturer and as an educator; Pal began a tabla academy at which Terrell herself will learn to play the centuries-old instrument.

In all the countries, Terrell’s ultimate hope is to play with the musician groups she studies, learn their instruments and share what she knows with them.

“I’m incredibly interested in Indian, African and Latin percussion,” she said. “I’m classically trained in percussion but I have no idea how to play some of these indigenous instruments. I don’t know how to play an ingoma, an African drum. I don’t know how to play the tabla. I know how to play the Americanized marimba, but why not see where it originated?”

After her Zeff year, Terrell hopes to continue to travel, to work as a producer and continue to teach and do outreach, a big passion of hers.

“I want to make an impact on this world using music as a social bridge,” she said.

The Watson Foundation was established in 1961 as a charitable trust by Jeannette Watson in honor of her late husband, Thomas J. Watson, the founder of IBM. Their children made the Watson Fellowship Program a major activity of the foundation in 1968 in recognition of their parents’ long-standing interest in education and world affairs.

Stephen Zeff, the Keith Anderson Professorship in Business and professor of accounting, created the Zeff Fellowship at Rice in honor of his parents, Roy and Hazel Zeff. When the fellowship was first awarded in 2002, Stephen Zeff told Rice News, “There are so many meritorious proposals that are submitted each year [for the Watson]. This scholarship gives another Rice student the opportunity, so it’s as if Rice has an additional student who received the Watson.”


About Jennifer Evans

Jennifer Evans is a senior editor in the Rice's Office of Public Affairs.