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Two Hendrix Students Receive Watson Fellowships

Lauren Seckington and Marcia Williams to spend one year traveling to multiple countries for in-depth study

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CONWAY, Arkansas (March 27, 2024)—Hendrix College students Lauren Seckington of Bentonville, who double-majored in religious studies and interdisciplinary studies: media and communications, and Marcia Williams, an environmental studies major from Pine Bluff, have been named to the 2024 class of Thomas J. Watson Fellows. They will depart the United States by August 1 to spend a year traveling the world to explore their deepest interests.

Seckington’s project, “Seeking Peace Through Interfaith Dialogue in Pluralist Societies,” includes travel to Singapore, Japan, Ireland, Australia, and South Africa to learn how perceptions of harmony differ across cultures, and how globalization can promote or threaten peaceful plurality. She will collaborate with interfaith workers, religious leaders, and members of pluralist communities to deepen her understandings of peace and harmony, preparing for a future of interfaith advocacy.

“My love for interfaith advocacy was propelled by my time in the Hendrix Religious Studies Department and the Odyssey Program funding that allowed me to attend the Parliament of the World’s Religions,” Seckington said. “This fellowship represents the intersection of so many passions of mine, and I’m so grateful for the support of the Hendrix community.”

Williams’s project, “Cultivating Connections: Community Gardens as Ecotherapy,” will take her to Rwanda, Sweden, Germany, Japan, and Mexico to explore the therapeutic qualities of communal gardens and their social, psychological, and economic benefits for marginalized communities.

“Nature, for me, has always been a source of hope, and it has helped me to learn about grief, love, and community,” Williams said. “Being able to experience the benefits that gardening and nature have on others around the world is the opportunity of a lifetime.”

“Marcia’s connection with nature and gardening goes back to childhood, and she has sought out soil and sunshine ever since. Luckily, it’s easy to find gardening outlets in the ‘Natural’ state of Arkansas,” said Britt Anne Murphy, Hendrix’s liaison to the Watson Fellowship. “And Marcia really sought out communities for herself through her environmental connections, not just at Hendrix, but also locally, statewide, and internationally. Marcia’s inserted herself in every environmental space on campus she could find, and in that process has realized how much nature has presented itself in her life as a healing force. Bell Urban Farm – one of her three workplaces – has offered her a window into how small-scale gardening can enrich local communities. But her time in Costa Rica really cemented her desire to explore how gardens can connect people and promote well-being.”

Of Seckington, Murphy said, “I have witnessed how much Lauren has grown as a person in working with her over the last year. Her project has changed to what compelled Lauren to seek out both of her majors in Religious Studies and Communications – interfaith dialogue. Lauren’s experiences on campus and in the classroom inform her approach to her Watson. Her experiences abroad and at the Parliament of the World’s Religions have confirmed her resolve that understanding and promoting diversity can help people of faith live harmoniously and help faith traditions thrive. Her work in communications has given her the experience and nuance to work with diverse populations, from children to older populations.”

Seckington and Williams are among eight Hendrix students to become Watson Fellows in the past six years. The four candidates Hendrix nominated this year continued their predecessors’ tradition of collaborating during the application process.

“This year’s candidates from Hendrix—Lauren, Marcia, Bergen Franklin, and Sophie O’Reilly—supported one another through every draft and interview prep session,” Murphy said. “They all are to be commended for working together as they each built excellent proposals that reflected the optimism and hope of this generation.”

“We are grateful to have Hendrix as one of just 41 partner colleges and universities working with the Watson Fellowship Program,” she added. “The Watson Foundation’s investment in Hendrix students creates not just global citizens, but future leaders for Arkansas and the nation.”

About Hendrix College

Founded in 1876, Hendrix College is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges and celebrated among the country’s leading liberal arts colleges for academic quality, engaged learning opportunities and career preparation, vibrant campus life, and value. The Hendrix College Warriors compete in 21 NCAA Division III sports. Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. Learn more at  

  “… Through engagement that links the classroom with the world, and a commitment to diversity, inclusion, justice, and sustainable living, the Hendrix community inspires students to lead lives of accomplishment, integrity, service, and joy.” —Hendrix College Statement of Purpose