Holy Cross Student Earns Prestigious Watson Fellowship

WORCESTER, Mass. – Iris Chin Ponte, a member of the Holy Cross Class of 2000 from Belmont, Mass., has been awarded a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to pursue an independent research project while traveling outside the United States.

The selection committee chose 60 winners from more than 1,000 students who applied.  The students were chosen from 40 of the nation's finest liberal arts colleges and small universities.

Watson Fellows receive $22,000 to support 12 months of independent study outside the territorial United States.  Ponte, a psychology major (with a concentration in Asian Studies), will spend the year investigating educational practices in preschools  in the United Kingdom, Taiwan, and Japan.

She tested her approach, which involves videotaping students in the classroom setting, during a semester in Beijing as part of the College's Study Abroad Program.  When she returned she analyzed the videotapes in comparison with ones prepared during visits to preschools in Worcester.  This effort was part of her thesis for the Holy Cross Honors Program, an exploration  of culturally-related differences in early childhood education.  Her videographic skills were honed during a summer internship at  the Children's Television Workshop, and her warm and enthusiastic personality sets her subjects, adult and child alike,  immediately at ease.

Thanks to her experience in Beijing and contact with Chinese relatives, Ponte now speaks and writes Chinese, an important factor in working in Taiwan.  She intends to study Japanese intensively before departing.  By the end of the adventure she will  have assembled an unparalleled collection of video footage, while testing her own resources and initiative in a unique and  life-changing series of challenges.

The Watson Fellowship Program was begun in 1968 by the children of Thomas J. Watson, Sr., the founder of IBM Corporation, and his wife, Jeannette K. Watson, to honor their parents' longstanding interest in education and world affairs.

The program identifies prospective leaders and allows them to develop their independence and to become world citizens. Watson Fellows span academic majors from physics to fine arts, and 23% of them are minorities.