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Mark McAlister awarded Sewanee’s 47th Watson Fellowship

mark mcalister

Mark McAlister, a biology major from Charlotte, North Carolina, has been awarded a prestigious year-long Watson Fellowship for 2017-18. Offered by the Thomas J. Watson Foundation, the Watson Fellowships offer college graduates a year of independent exploration and travel outside the United States. Watson Fellows must create, execute, and evaluate their own projects.

McAlister proposed a project that will consider the way in which a successful or unsuccessful emergency medical service affects the larger community in both urban and rural environments, and will seek to understand how these services establish senses of trust, security, and well-being for individuals who live near them. As a Sewanee student, McAlister served as a volunteer emergency medical technician; the experience led him to wonder about the ways emergency medical services function elsewhere.

“This journey really began for me the week after I was named one of the four new members of Sewanee EMTs in March 2014. The following week, I set out on a trip to Ecuador with a Sewanee Outreach team. As we drove from the airport to our hostel, I remember watching the traffic go by and seeing an ambulance fly past us with their lights and sirens on,” explained McAlister. “With EMS fresh on my mind, it made me wonder what the experience was like on the inside of that truck: the story, the service workers, the patient. As the years continued, I was fortunate to continue working as an EMT, and also to travel more. This question continued to develop in my mind.”

McAlister is a member of the University’s cross-country and track and field teams, and currently serves as chair of the Honor Council. He has been accepted to medical school and plans to resume his studies following his Watson year of exploration in Chile, Denmark, Tanzania, and Thailand. He says, “It’s hard to fathom that I am going to get to explore a topic I have asked myself about for years. I am so excited and I can’t wait for the road ahead!”

Since 1985, when Sewanee was selected as one of the Watson institutions, the university has produced 47 fellowship recipients, including most recently Lauren Lyons, C’16. The Watson Foundation selects fellows based on qualities of leadership, imagination, independence, integrity, resourcefulness, and responsibility.

This year’s class of 40 Watson Fellows was chosen from 149 finalists, and comes from 21 states and six countries. The Fellowship recipients will receive stipends of $30,000 each for 12 months of travel, and will explore topics from pediatric cancer treatment to citizen journalism; from animation to autonomous vehicles; from immigration to island communities.