By Robert Beeland
Lauren Lyons (C’16), a philosophy and history double-major, has just been awarded a Watson Fellowship and will receive $30,000 to study the prison education systems in Australia, New Zealand, Norway, and South Africa. Lyons proposed a project that, according to her fellowship proposal, would study “the relationship between education and rehabilitation within these systems” through their incorporation of “philosophical education into penal education schemes.” Lyons is the 46th Watson Fellow selected from Sewanee, and the first selected from Sewanee since 2014 when Rob Goeller (C ’14) and Kelsey Koontz (C ’14) were named recipients. I asked her a few questions about her fellowship and the application process.
How did you discover your interest in prison education systems?
I think my interest in prison education arose as a combination of a few of my distinct interests. I am really passionate about academia and plan to pursue a career in that avenue (philosophy specifically). But I am also interested in social justice and human rights, specifically prison reform. I guess I came to really thinking about prison education (and philosophy in prison, specifically) upon realizing that philosophy provides an awesome set of resources for considering how we should live our lives, but that those resources are only available to a privileged elite: i.e. us.
How did you go about making the proposal and finishing your work as a soon-to-be graduating senior?
Applying for the Watson is like having an additional full course, or maybe even more than that. The process begins here in Sewanee; about 50 people applying during the initial round, and the Sewanee committee nominates 4 people in the end, who are subsequently evaluated by the national committee (following an interview with a Watson representative). In each round of the process, the application becomes more in depth; it seemed that in the beginning, I presented a relatively vague explication on an idea, and in the end, I produced a full scale plan for realizing it.
What professors particularly helped you during the process?
Most notably, Dr. Ladygina (Russian). Sewanee assigns each semifinalist a mentor to help them through the process, specifically by way of intensively working through application documents. Dr. Chris Conn (philosophy) and Dr. Kelly Whitmer (history) wrote my recommendations. There is an endless list of people who provided their kind support, but some are: Dr. Miller (Music, Watson Chair), Dr. Pradip Malde, and Dr. Hopwood. I can’t thank them enough!
What plans do you have for when you conclude your research?
I plan to apply to graduate programs during my Watson year. Ideally, that will result in my attending a JD/PhD program in Philosophy/law in Fall 2017.