Embracing the Journey

April 13, 2015
Amanda Nagy
Photo credit: Photo via Flickr

Two Oberlin graduates will have the rare opportunity to spend a year traveling the world outside of the United States, engaging in purposeful independent study and pursuing their passions, as recipients of the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship.

The Watson Fellowship is awarded to graduating seniors nominated by one of 40 partner institutions.

Aaron Krupp ’13 and Ruby Turok-Squire ’15 have each been awarded a $30,000 grant for their personal projects. Krupp is a graduate of Oberlin’s 3-2 Engineering Program. This spring, he will graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering from the California Institute of Technology. Turok-Squire graduated in January with a major in English literature. She also studied composition in the Conservatory of Music.

Krupp will spend the year developing technologies designed for function and accessibility that can help break the cycle of poverty. His project will take him to India, Cambodia, Thailand, and Burma/Myanmar. He will spend the first half of the year in India working on two projects: a manufacturing system for cheap, durable roofing panels made from recycled cardboard; and a wheelchair that can handle all terrain, fabricated exclusively from bicycle parts.

He will spend several months in Cambodia, working on ceramic water filters. He will finish the year developing systems to remove biopathogens and dissolved chemicals from drinking water in Thailand and Burma.

While at Oberlin, Krupp was involved in humanitarian work in Haiti after the devastating earthquake that ravaged the country in January 2010. He worked with the Haitian Organization Program for Education and Health, a group dedicated to providing easily accessible education and medical care to rural communities in Haiti, and surveyed members of impoverished rural communities to determine what they most needed and wanted.

“Oberlin prepared me well for finishing school at Caltech. I came into Oberlin pretty committed to social justice and left feeling similarly inspired. A good portion of this year is figuring how to use technology to improve social justice outcomes around the world.”

Turok-Squire will travel to some of the world’s most far-flung locations to study her greatest loves: music and animals. She will spend the majority of the year recording, analyzing, and writing music inspired by the sonic vocabularies of certain renowned species of musicians, including humpback whales, the Tui and Kea birds, Darwin’s finches, fur seals, scarlet macaws, howler monkeys, tree frogs, and canaries. For this work, she will live with societies rich with histories of connection to their native wildlife: French Polynesia, New Zealand, Ecuador (Galapagos Islands), Costa Rica, and Spain (La Gomera, Canary Islands).

She will also study with composers whose work is inspired by nature, volunteer in animal rehabilitation, and assist evolutionary biologists.

“My Watson project unites my love of animals, whom I believe I have everything to learn from, and my love of music, which educates me in my emotions. In bringing these together, I will challenge myself to find new ways to envision our human place in nature,” she says in her Watson proposal.

A native of Cambridge, United Kingdom, Turok-Squire says participating fully in the local community, wherever that may be, is important to her. Before she came to Oberlin, she volunteered as a teacher in a rural village school in Ghana. In 2012, she received a $2,000 grant from Oberlin’s Creativity & Leadership Project to return to the village to facilitate a clean water project.

In 2010, she volunteered at the Animal Behaviour Unit of the University of Cambridge, UK, where she helped study neophobia in rooks and jackdaws. “I heard about research into the meanings of birdcalls and how birds interact with human musics, but no one asked the questions in reverse: How do we interact with birdsong, emotionally and creatively? How might birdcalls be analyzed as musics in their own right? These questions will lead me towards cross-species definitions of music. As I see it, we are all just animals who love to express ourselves; perhaps it is time we learned from our neighbors.”

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