For sheer armchair traveling pleasure, we present this year’s Thomas J. Watson Fellowship winners:
Xiao Jiang ’22 and Mark Diaz ’22 are among 42 students selected from 41 private college and university partners to receive $40,000 grants to pursue research projects during 12 months of international travel.
Jiang found care and acceptance in New York City’s Chinatown at the age of 5 when she and her mother came to the U.S. from China. After arriving at Pomona as a Questbridge Match Recipient with a full four-year scholarship, Jiang was worried about returning to her Chinatown for fear of seeing it changed—gentrified —into a place she would no longer recognize as home. As a sophomore, she took an anthropology course and studied the effects of gentrification on Los Angeles’ Chinatown. For her senior project in anthropology, she created a short documentary on how COVID-19 has affected Chinatowns in New York and Los Angeles.
Jiang will spend her Watson year traveling to China, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, the United Kingdom, France and Belgium to learn how immigrants and Chinese residents engage with Chinatowns to develop a sense of self within a community of like-minded people.
Diaz was a junior in high school when he was first introduced to kabuki, a traditional form of Japanese theatre that incorporates dance, music and mime. At Pomona, he drew Emeritus Professor Leonard Pronko out of retirement to study under him and to have Pronko teach a masterclass on kabuki. They staged Narukami Thunder God at Pomona’s Alumni Weekend in 2019 before Pronko’s death later that year.
Thinking about his own ancestors, the Maya and the Basque, Diaz wondered what type of theatre they developed and how it is also under-staged or recognized in the U.S. Diaz will travel to Japan, Spain, Belize and Guatemala to explore traditional dramatic forms: kabuki in Japan, religious dance ceremony in Guatemala and Belize, and pastorale in Spain.