Schuricht and Mackenzie Win Fellowships

Casey Davidow

While most Colgate seniors prepare for graduate school and jobs, seniors Sachiko Schuricht and Sarah Mackenzie are busy preparing for what promises to be one of the best years of their lives.

Schuricht recently received the Watson Fellowship to create a documentary on speedcubing communities in Asia and Europe, and Mackenzie received the Fulbright Scholarship to teach English in Indonesia.

The Watson Fellowship is a product of the Thomas J. Watson Foundation, which gives a $28,000 grant to 40 graduating seniors nationwide to pursue a topic of their interest. Recipients of the fellowship receive funding from the Watson Foundation to pursue an original, personal project.

The goal of the Watson Fellowship is to help make graduating college students independent, self-sufficient citizens of the world. In pursuing this goal, the fellowship requires that the recipients not return to the United States for an entire year. The recipient also cannot officially affiliate with any institution or have visitors from home for periods of more than two weeks.

Schuricht explained that self-reliance, independence and ingenuity are really at the heart of the fellowship. The recipients have to be proactive and budget the money they receive from the foundation carefully. Schuricht is only required to contact the Watson Foundation every time she switches countries.

Speedcubing, the subject Schuricht will be studying, is an international subculture that revolves around solving the Rubik’s Cube as fast as possible. People who participate in this subculture are called “cubers.”

Schuricht will be visiting speedcubing communities in the Asian and European countries of Japan, China, Indonesia, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Russia and Hungry.

Schuricht chose to visit these countries based on which countries have the fastest cubers, the largest population of cubers and – in the cases of Indonesia and Russia – new communities of cubers.

Schuricht has been involved in filmmaking since high school and her interest in speedcubing was sparked the summer after her first year at Colgate. During that summer, she made a documentary about speedcubing in San Francisco, near where she lives, and she has been interested in the subculture ever since.

This documentary was included in two film festivals and was even bought by a media distributor. Schuricht explained that the “success of that documentary was reinforcing” and prompted her to seriously consider making more documentaries about cubing and apply for the Watson Fellowship.

Schuricht advised Colgate students to remember that you never know when something totally unexpected will pop up, and when it does, “you just need to run with it.”

“Opportunities go as far as you will take them, as far as you push them,” Schuricht said.

Schuricht expects her year abroad to be a year of self-discovery. Over the course of the year, she hopes to figure out whether she wants to further pursue filmmaking.

Once she has completed the fellowship, Schuricht will have to turn in a basic record of her spending, and there will be a three-day conference with all of the other Watson fellows to talk about their projects. All of the 40 funded Watson fellows are pursuing unique research, ranging from cloud formations to humanitarian crises.

This conference is still far off in the future, but the present reality of having received the Watson Fellowship still has not hit Schuricht. She feels honored and truly lucky.

“I basically know that the next year is going to be the best year of my life, and it will change me, which is both amazing and extremely intimidating,” Schuricht said.

Mackenzie is likewise excited about spending her year abroad with the Fulbright Scholarship, a product of the Fulbright Program that is more structured than the Watson Fellowship. It provides accommodations, airfare, medical insurance and a living stipend for scholars.

The Fulbright Scholarship sends students overseas either to do research or teach. The goal of the scholarship is to encourage international awareness and ambassadorship for the United States.

Mackenzie will be sent to one of the 13,000 islands that comprise Indonesia for ten months for an English teaching assistantship.

Mackenzie describes her scholarship as a “great opportunity just to be abroad.” Furthermore, her mother is a teacher, so education and literacy have always been important to Mackenzie, which makes this opportunity especially meaningful.

While she is in Indonesia, Mackenzie will have to provide the Fulbright foundation with a midterm report, and then a final report once she is done. The only obligation she will have once she finishes her ten months of teaching is to serve as an ambassador for the program.

Mackenzie has a passion for education. She is a sociology/anthropology major and Asian studies minor and is fluent in both Spanish and Hindi. She will be taking a quick course on Bahasa, the official national language of Indonesia, during her first few weeks there.

Eventually, Mackenzie wants to become a speech/language pathologist for autistic children. She thinks that this fellowship fits into her plan perfectly because her work in Indonesia will be all about education and communication.

Mackenzie’s family is almost as excited as Mackenzie herself. She said that her family has “always known that I have had the travel bug, and known that I would end up somewhere.”

Both the Fulbright Scholarship and the Watson Fellowship will open a lot of doors for recipients in terms of networking with other Fulbright and Watson alumni.

In addition to receiving prestigious scholarships, Schuricht and Mackenzie are close friends and Schuricht plans on visiting Mackenzie while she is in Indonesia.

Associate Director for Fellowship, Scholarship and Graduate School Advising Ann Landstrom is overjoyed for Schuricht and Mackenzie and emphasized what an honor it is that they have received such nationally competitive fellowships. She believes that they have an amazing year ahead of them.

In the past, Landstrom has noticed that fellowship recipients tend to return to the United States with a more worldly view and global perspective. Some students come back on the same track they left with, while others completely change their interests and career path. Either way, she said, the fellowship recipients come back with confidence that allows them to successfully move forward.