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Wilmer Chavarria’s award-winning project is entitled “No Budget Films: Exploring Local Independent Filmmaking in Europe and Latin America.”

Two Earlham Seniors Win Watson Fellowships

March 18, 2013

Earlham College seniors Wilmer Chavarria and Lily Cutler have been selected for prestigious Thomas J. Watson Fellowships. The fellowships, which are awarded to college graduates of “unusual promise,” provide $25,000 for a year of independent, purposeful exploration and international travel. The aim, in part, is to foster effective participation in the world community.

Chavarria and Cutler are among only 40 awardees from select private liberal arts colleges and universities in the Watson’s 2012-2013 class. Earlham is one of a handful of colleges to produce multiple Watson Fellowships this year. Others include Swarthmore, Union and Harvey Mudd colleges. Since 2003, nine Earlham students have won Watson Fellowships.

Chavarria, a self-designed cinematographic arts major from Nicaragua, will study “No Budget Films: Exploring Local Independent Filmmaking in Europe and Latin America.” Chavarria will travel to Chile, El Salvador, Costa Rica, United Kingdom, and the Netherlands to meet with directors and artists working on independent films in their communities.

“From creating a movie about endangered turtles in El Salvador to making music videos in the Netherlands, this experience will afford me contact with not only stories, but also with storytellers themselves,” Chavarria says in his project proposal.

Chavarria is the youngest of seven children in a family of journalists and grew up volunteering at his local TV station. He began editing his own videos at age 11 and received national honors for two videos. When he was 16, he traveled to Canada to study visual arts with a focus on video production and has continued his studies at Earlham.

“By sharing and living the challenges that underfunded independent films face, I hope to discover the deeper reasons artists have for pursuing this passion and compare their experience with my own,” he writes.

Lily Cutler will research "Gayborhood Watch: An Inquiry Into Queer Localities" with her $25,000 Watson Fellowship.Cutler, a politics major from Iowa, will travel to France, Greece, Turkey, Thailand, and Argentina to research her project entitled “Gayborhood Watch: An Inquiry Into Queer Localities.”

“Gay neighborhoods have historically represented a safe womb of community and place of honesty for queer individuals who are often viewed as deviant by mainstream society,” Cutler writes in her proposal. “I seek to know, through experiential observation, participation and conservation how and why the queer identity is continually established and nurtured in certain neighborhoods.

“I will ask questions to search for similarities between communities oceans apart, to dig deeper at the differences to know them in a way attained only through interactive experience and to understand what problems threaten the sacredness, the queerness of these spaces.”

Cutler interned at London’s Equal Rights Trust and worked at Georgia Equality, where she wrote the first published guide for transgender and genderqueer voters.

The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program was established in 1968 by the children of Thomas J. Watson, Sr., the founder of International Business Machines Corp., and his wife, Jeannette K. Watson, to honor their parents’ long-standing interest in education and world affairs. The Watson Foundation regards its investment in people as an effective long-term contribution to the global community.

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