Colorado College's Hooker Receives Prestigious Watson Fellowship

Colorado College's Hooker Receives Prestigious Watson Fellowship

(Story courtesy of Colorado College)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.
– International travel always has been an important component of Theo Hooker's Colorado College experience. Meet The Fellows

During his first three years as a student-athlete, the senior mathematical economics major visited England, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Chile.

On the first full day of his latest overseas adventure, a 10-day cultural and competitive trip to Italy with the CC men's soccer team during spring break, and with Vatican City serving as the backdrop, Hooker learned he had received the prestigious Thomas J. Watson Fellowship.

"We had been away from the hotel and Wi-Fi for most of the day," Hooker said. "We got back to the hotel around 10 p.m. As I connected to the Wi-Fi, I checked my email and found out I received the Watson along with emails from friends and family who had checked the Watson Foundation website earlier in the day.

"It was a strange combination of feelings. I was jet-lagged from the flight, exhausted from a full day of training, touring, and playing, and overcome with excitement about receiving the news."

The 50th Class of Watson Fellows hail from eight countries and 17 states. Colorado College, which is one of 40 partner colleges, put forward four nominees.

The Watson Fellowship provides a rare window of time after college and pre-career to engage your deepest interest on a global scale. Fellows conceive original projects, execute them outside of the United States for one year and embrace the ensuing journey. They decide where to go, who to meet and when to change course. They do not affiliate with academic institutions and may not hold formal employment.

Hooker's project, titled 'Feeding the Earth and Ourselves,' will take him to England, Spain, The Netherlands, India and Tanzania in order to explore the relationship between ecological sustainability, economic viability, and cultural traditions and to learn how people perceive and address food system sustainability.

"My project centers on the complexity of food systems," Hooker said. "I will explore not just the food itself, but also its ripple effects. I will explore how ecological sustainability, economic viability and cultural traditions intersect within food systems.

"From my Watson year, I hope to better understand others' perception of sustainability and the ways it interacts economically and socially to help foster sustainable food systems in my community."

In addition to the $30,000 stipend, the Watson Foundation provides (through reimbursement) health insurance and the equivalent of 12-months of payments on outstanding institutional and federally guaranteed (Perkins, Stafford) loans.

To satisfy the requirements of the Watson Fellowship, Hooker will submit quarterly reports throughout the year and attend the returning fellows' conference when he returns to the United States in August 2019.  

One of the caveats of accepting the Watson Fellowship is putting other professional opportunities on hold for a calendar year. For Hooker, that includes foregoing the chance to pursue a career in professional soccer.

"The Watson requires fellows to remain out of the country for 12 months," Hooker said. "Many of the positions I applied for in my job search process were related to sustainability and food systems, so a year of experiencing sustainable food systems around the world will only further my understanding in the field.

"As for soccer, the Watson Fellowship is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I do not think I could have forgiven myself if I passed it up. As for right now, the possibility of playing soccer after graduation is on hold. Soccer will always be a part of my life, but whether it is at a competitive, high level, I am not sure."

Submitting a Watson Fellowship proposal is an exhausting process that takes the better part of a year.

"From the initial brainstorming of my idea, researching potential places to go, and drafting my proposal to the CC application process, more revisions and interview preparation, and the final interview, this 9-month project has come to an end, only to give way to a new journey," Hooker said. "I am nervous and excited about spending 12 months in new, different, and challenging spaces. There will be obstacles along the way, but my experience at Colorado College has prepared me to grow and learn from these experiences."

"There were so many impactful players in this process. First I would like to thank The Colorado College for these past four years and the opportunity to explore my academic and professional interests while building incredible relationships along the way. Thanks to the Watson Committee (Re Evitt, Michael Sawyer, Lynne Gratz, and John Zirkle) for their continued support throughout the application process, Scott Palguta and Aju Fenn for their support and council, and professors John Gould, Scott Ingram, Marion Hourdequin, Christina Rader, Jean Lee, Mario Montaño and Tyler Cornelius for their help revising draft after draft of my proposal and preparing me for my interview."

The list of qualities used in the selection of Watson recipients include leadership, imagination, independence, emotional maturity, courage, integrity, resourcefulness and responsibility.

Hooker has displayed all of those qualities during his academic and athletic careers at Colorado College.

SCAC Fall Media Days
August 28, 2017 SCAC Fall Media Days