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Hendrix Senior Awarded Thomas J. Watson Fellowship

Thurman Work Station 20140703CONWAY, Ark. (March 16, 2016) – Jessa Thurman ’16 was recently awarded the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship.

The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship is a one-year grant for purposeful, independent study outside the United States, awarded to graduating seniors nominated by one of 40 partner colleges

This year, 152 finalists were nominated to compete on the national level, from which 40 fellows were selected. The 48th Class of Watson Fellows represents 21 states and eight countries and will traverse 67 countries.  

Thurman, a biology major and English (literary studies) minor from Hot Springs, Arkansas, will visit Australia, Thailand, Brazil, Peru, and the United Kingdom as she pursues her project titled “From Extermination to Appreciation: Ethnoentomology and Connecting to the World through Insects.”

“For my Watson Year, I propose to investigate what makes us love, hate, or simply ignore insects and how this perception inhibits both our study and appreciation of these creatures in our modern world,” Thurman wrote in her project description. “I will learn new applications of insects for Australian agriculture and entomophagy in Thailand by working alongside entomologists on public outreach and citizen science projects, volunteering on insect farms, and interviewing market owners and consumers of insect products. In South America I will engage in ethnoentomology, learning how humans have found medicinal and cultural uses for insects.”

“Aside from their importance to humans, I will also explore aesthetics through a range of experiences – from raising insects in Thailand to seeing how artists have portrayed them in galleries throughout England,” she wrote. “Rounding off my experiences I will volunteer with exterminators to meet those who rely economically on human fear of insects and compare it to my gained skills on insect appreciation and education.”

“I've done several Odyssey projects while here at Hendrix, and when I started my application for the Watson, I realized how all of those projects were accumulating into my Watson proposal,” Thurman said. “Just the application was wonderful because it allowed me to delve into my love for insects, dream about what I would do if I could travel the world for a year, and experience the support of several professors and friends as I pursued that dream. I spend a lot of time trying to share what I've learned about insects with others, and this application was a time when I got to step back and notice the impact that those efforts for insect-education had. I'm eternally grateful for this opportunity and encourage all future seniors to apply!”

Thurman is the 34th Hendrix student to receive a Watson Fellowship. Read the full list

“I have never met anyone who can speak of parasitic wasps with the passion and eloquence of Jessa Thurman,” said Hendrix College President Bill Tsutsui. “She truly embodies the ideals of the Watson Fellowship and the special qualities of a Hendrix education: academic excellence, profound curiosity, and a deep inner drive to explore the world and make it a better place.”

About Hendrix College

Hendrix College is a private liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas. Founded in 1876 and affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884, Hendrix is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think about Colleges and is nationally recognized in numerous college guides, lists, and rankings for academic quality, community, innovation, and value. For more information, visit