Jennifer Bitterly, a senior English and philosophy major from Agoura Hills, CA, has been named a Watson Fellow, a prestigious designation that includes a stipend to be used for travel and study abroad for 2018-2019. Bitterly is one of only 40 graduating college seniors nationwide awarded the fellowship. She plans to visit Guatemala, South Africa, Greece, India, and Mongolia while completing her project titled “Searching for Home, Shaping the Self.”
“I hope to learn how the relational value of home takes shape through physical place,” she says. “Though the idea of home may appear simple, in my experience it is richly layered and offers rewarding insight into how our personal and communal identities are formed through and from our surroundings. What role does the home occupy in a society, and what does that say about ourselves? Amidst varied geopolitical contexts, I will look for commonalities in how place shapes the home, and how home shapes the self.”
A graduate of La Reina High School in California, Bitterly received the Bellingrath Scholarship at Rhodes. She spent a semester in Spain as a Buckman Fellow and also has studied and been an intern abroad in Ecuador and Argentina. In 2017 while participating in the Rhodes Institute for Regional Studies, she explored concepts of home within migrant communities in Memphis and the Mid-South. This past year, she has worked as a legal assistant at an immigration law firm in Memphis, where she prepares hardship waivers for families.
“Jennifer is an academically gifted student who has consistently sought out culturally immersive experiences and has engaged in cross-cultural interactions. As someone who makes bold and unconventional choices that challenge her, Jennifer exemplifies the quality of ‘unusual promise’ that the Watson is looking for,” says Dr. Judith Haas, Rhodes’ co-director of postgraduate fellowships.
In addition, Bitterly has participated in Rhodes’ mock trial program all four years of college, where she is a two-time winner of the American Mock Trial Association’s All-American attorney award. She also is a Rhodes Diplomat, vice-president of the English honor society Sigma Tau Delta, and a member of Delta Delta Delta sorority, the philosophy honor society Phi Sigma Tau, and Omicron Delta Kappa, an honor society for outstanding scholarship and leadership.
After completing the Watson Fellowship, Bitterly has plans to pursue graduate studies. She says, “I am currently considering both law school and a doctorate in an interdisciplinary field such as American Studies, potentially as a joint J.D./Ph.D. Whether I work as an academic, an attorney, or another position, I hope to engage some intersection of my interests surrounding immigration law, migration studies, critical theory, postcolonial literature, and disciplines concerning questions of identity. I am not entirely sure what that looks like, though I anticipate the Watson will strongly influence the direction my studies take afterwards.”
Established in 1968, the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship provides for one year of independent study and travel outside the United States. Bitterly is Rhodes’ 12th Watson Fellow since 2002.