Watson Fellows to Research Urban Agriculture, Sexual Discrimination Abroad

Mike MavredakisJuly 10, 20247min
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Two recent Wesleyan graduates, Dylan Campos ’24 and Cate Levy ’24, were named Watson Fellows by the Thomas J. Watson Foundation. Each will travel abroad to several countries on year-long, independent exploration projects.

“The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship is unique among leadership fellowships because of its globe-spanning and open-ended nature,” Erica Kowsz, Wesleyan’s associate director for Fellowships, explained. Aspiring fellows can propose the project that most suits their own passions, however idiosyncratic they may be, without the pressure of producing academic publications or pursuing a graduate degree.”

Campos will venture to cities in Australia, France, Mexico, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Singapore to study urban and peri-urban agriculture and its place in creating community and political engagement. This work is an extension of previous food insecurity research Campos conducted during a semester abroad in Argentina, Spain, and South Africa and work he did during Yuh-Line Niou’s congressional campaign in New York in 2022, he said.

“Dylan’s interested in how these are not just agriculture projects but also social projects,” said Erica Kowsz. “The project allows Dylan to bring together several of the threads he’s been following for years, not just his environmental activism, which is notable, or his academic interest in food systems and sustainability, but also his focus on political and community organizing.”

He will work with local farmers, community groups, and hunger relief organizations to see how locals in each region have attempted to address this problem. For example, while he is in Porto, Portugal he will visit a city farm that is using regenerative farming tactics to restore nutrients to soil contaminated by nearby abandoned coal mines. In Australia and the Netherlands, he will observe how community members use urban farms to discuss land-use policy. He hopes that the ability to spend multiple months in some places will allow him to integrate into the communities and then determine his role in engaging with them.

“One thing I’ve learned doing my research and my work is, that when it comes to alleviating urban food insecurity, is that one size does not fit all in terms of a solution,” Campos said. “What works in Argentina will not work in South Africa, which will not work in Spain, which won’t work in the United States.”

While the Watson fellowship does not require fellows to produce a final academic product, the Fellows will present on their experience during an annual conference once they return to the United States. Campos also plans to photograph his experience, interview people, and write about he learns.

Levy, who majored in anthropology and Hispanic Literature and Cultures at Wesleyan, will travel to Argentina, Colombia, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Peru, and Spain for her project. She is looking to do several smaller projects that explore the ways in which sexual discrimination and patriarchal violence show up in different cultures and how each culture has responded to them. She is passionate about community leadership and organizing and hopes to further develop her skills through work with non-profits and community leaders, she said.

“People have really imaginative approaches to fighting injustice and I feel like we could use a little bit more imagination, especially in this country,” Levy said.

She will be engaging in a variety of different projects throughout her year abroad. In Madrid, Levy will shadow a feminist theater collective that puts on politically minded productions. In Mexico, she will work as an abortion doula in an underground abortion network — Levy worked as an abortion doula at Wesleyan through the Wesleyan Doula Project. In Florence, Italy, she will shadow a professor and policy analyst who runs a non-profit that focuses on gender parity and financial literacy. Levy will give a talk explaining her thesis research on sexual education for a summit the organization hosts. She will also travel to Amsterdam to interview sex workers in the Red Light District and plans to do sex education talks with two groups in Peru.

“I’m just excited to see how different groups of people organize against some really difficult experiences,” Levy said.

Neither Levy nor Campos have definitive career plans yet. But each intends to use this fellowship to get more experience helping to solve the problems that they care most about.