Carson Duffy ′12
Hometown: Charlotte, NC
Major: Urban Studies
After the next year, no one will ever be able to accuse Carson Duffy ’12 of avoiding conflict. In fact, beginning in fall, she will be studying it as a recipient of a prestigious fellowship from the Thomas J. Watson Foundation.
Carson’s winning proposal is titled “All for One & One for All: Leadership Through Community Building in Divided Societies—Chile, India, United Kingdom, South Africa.” Her project centers on how leadership emerges through community building and reconciliation strategy in response to major trauma in post-conflict nations.
“One of the things that either tears people apart or brings them together is a really big conflict. In America and all over the world conflict has either completely torn apart nations or cities or groups of people or has brought people together who weren’t connected before in order to sustain their livelihoods. So I wanted to explore that more,” Carson says.
The process of applying for a postgraduate fellowship or scholarship started for Carson during her sophomore year as she began jotting down ideas about what her project might be. A junior year stint in the one-credit Intro to Postgraduate Studies class helped her develop a personal statement and learn more about the Watson and its application process.
“I think the biggest thing about applying for the Watson is starting earlier than you could ever imagine,” she says. “The process is hard because it is emotionally draining. The whole process is about getting to know yourself and trying to find your voice and telling your story and identifying these threads in your life that no one’s ever asked you to identify before. And that’s hard to do.
“I was looking at the process as a good idea and a good experience regardless of what the outcome was going to be. I would encourage everyone to apply for that specific reason. You may not ever again have the opportunity in your life to do the kind of soul searching that you have to do to turn in the application.”
An earlier opportunity as a Bonner Scholar brought Carson to Rhodes and paved the way for her Watson. The Bonner program “helps you develop as a person so you’ve already started doing your personal work,” Carson explains. On campus, she serves as co-moderator of the Kinney Program and has served as program coordinator for the Mentoring and Education area of the Kinney Program. In that role she matched Rhodes students with students from Central High School—one of Rhodes’ partner schools— to provide information about college, careers and personal development.
Established in 1968, The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship offers a year of independent, purposeful exploration and travel outside the United States to enhance the fellow’s capacity for resourcefulness, imagination, openness, and leadership and to foster humane and effective participation in the world community. Around the end of July, Carson will strike out for South Africa, Chile, India, and Northern Ireland as the ninth Watson Fellowship recipient from Rhodes.
Currently, she is trying to let it sink in that the months of waiting since her interview for the fellowship in October have actually culminated in her win. And thinking about what lies ahead.
“Conflict actually scares the daylights out of me,” she says. “I don’t have a lot of experience confronting conflict, but this is a good opportunity for me to deal with that.”