Frequently Asked Questions

Leadership: The capacity to command a following for what one thinks, does, or creates. The individual has — often with others, not always — brought a significant action to sustainment. Beyond managing processes, they see opportunities in challenges and motivate solutions. Leadership may also be seen in authorship.

Responsibility: The ability to follow through on commitments without supervision. The individual is accountable to themselves and others.

Integrity: Strong ethical character and trustworthiness.

Emotional Maturity: Inner stability, a grounded individual. They are thoughtful, relate well to others, and are honest with themselves.

Imagination: The power of framing new and striking conceptions. The individual has the vision to integrate ideas into forward-thinking action.

Independence: Self-reliance; freedom from the influence, guidance, or control of others.

Resourcefulness: The ability to deal effectively with problems using what is available. They do a lot with a little and achieve more than could be expected.

Courage: They show a boldness of spirit, and persevere in pursuit of a purpose. They are unafraid to support the underdog or unpopular.

Organic: The project grows from the nominee’s background, interests, and activities. The most organic projects show deep, tangible investment. We are not looking for the project to have been completed once before but need to see convincing engagement in the themes that underpin the interest.

Inspiring: The project is deeply meaningful to the individual’s life and will provide the energy to sustain and propel the nominee through the ups and downs of the year.

Open: We often say that “Watson is wide.” The project should take advantage of the Fellowship’s unique latitude, its flexibility and permission to stay curious, even fail. The project should reject linear achievement and professional advancement as its central aim.

Bold: Provided a project is realistic, applicants are encouraged to push the envelope. To stretch. Stretch will look different for everyone. Someone who has lived abroad several times for extended periods, exploring aspects of the topic, independently, should be able to convey how the Watson would be a significantly new— transformative, not just additive—experience.

Realistic: Without institutional affiliations, Watson Fellows have little support structure in the field. Given this independence, the project must balance boldness with pragmatism. The project should demonstrate that the nominee is thinking in feasible terms. “What is achievable, given my subject matter, my preparation, my contacts, my funding, my skills?”

Connected: While the Watson Year is independent, the project is intended to be experienced with others. As part of the application process we strongly advise candidates to contact inspiring institutions and thought-leaders, as well as communities and individuals in-country, to build connection and insight.

3-Dimensional: A Watson Project should convey a broad approach with multiple plans. These plans may be conveyed through a diversity of questions, cultures, groups, sectors, people, functions, and novel ways to challenge the project topic.

Projects should involve travel to places where you have not lived or studied for a significant length of time (more than 4 weeks). Exceptions include places you traveled as a young child and have no memory, and "vast land" countries such as Brazil, if your study was, for example, in Sao Paulo and you seek to study in the State of Amazonas.

Yes, but you may not return to your home country.

If you are awarded a fellowship and discover compelling reasons to alter your project scope, you may propose changes to the program office.

Yes, though we require notification (not permission) for major changes. Changes must be true to the essence and focus of the project.

The Watson is a year on. It is a chance to synthesize ideas, organic to your own interests, on a world scale. The Foundation is investing in you as a leader, an investment that provides a lifetime of compounded interest in the form of perspective, confidence and insight.

We will reimburse the equivalent of 12-months of payments on outstanding institutional and federally guaranteed (Perkins, Stafford) loans. The fellow is responsible for making the payments.

There are no vacation periods but it is expected that fellows will want to take a break from their project and will do so in the region they are exploring. Your family or a friend may visit for up to two weeks. We do not permit travel for graduate school interviews.

All fellows are automatically enrolled in international travel medical insurance provided by the foundation.

The program provides reasonable accommodations to ensure that all nominees can participate in the fellowship’s application and interview process, and all fellows can participate in the fellowship’s programming. If a nominee or fellow requires an accommodation because of a disability, medical condition or religious practice, an interactive process will be initiated between the nominee or fellow, and the Watson staff, with the goal of determining a reasonable accommodation. Reasonable accommodations are determined on an individual basis and do not impact fellowship selection. Supporting documentation may be requested to inform the interactive process.

Yes, but you can spread the taxes over two years by taking the stipend in two installments.