Maurice Rippel ’19 Receives Watson Fellowship
The English major will spend the year after his Haverford graduation traveling to four continents to explore communities through their barbershops thanks to the $30,000 award.
Maurice Rippel ’19, an English major and educational studies minor from Wyndmoor, Pa., has been selected for the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, which funds a year of independent exploration and international travel to newly graduated college students.
Rippel is one of just 41 fellows in the 51st class of the prestigious fellowship. He will use its $30,000 award to fund a year of travel to Canada, the U.K., Italy, Nigeria, South Africa, and Colombia to explore the local communities through their barbershops.
“My project is grounded in storytelling… and the place where I've always heard some of the best stories growing up was in the barbershop,” he said. “I committed to applying [for the Watson] after getting a haircut and swapping stories at this barbershop in Barbados, where I studied abroad. We had this conversation about the ‘lost art’ of freestyle, some of the best rugby and cricket players of the year, and ended up arguing about #BlackLivesMatter and Black liberation. In a way, it was similar to many experiences I had in the States, but the contexts couldn't be more different. I left wondering, where else were these stories being shared, these debates being had?”
For his project “Barbershop Talk: Storytelling and Debate,” Rippel aims to not only immerse himself in the sociopolitical space of the barbershop, but, as a writer and storyteller himself, to act as a conduit for the narratives that are shared there.
“My thesis work is grounded in autobiography theory and getting to understand how people convey their experiences,” he said. “So through my Watson year I'll have an opportunity to not only listen to stories, but also write and share ones I hear along the way.”
At Haverford, Rippel has distinguished himself as co-president of Students’ Council, a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, co-head of Sons of Africa, and one of the student founders of SURGE, a mentoring program for local boys of color. And now he is the 67th Haverford student to receive a Watson Fellowship.
“Maurice's exemplary leadership at Haverford, his responsibility, independence, and resourcefulness are all qualities that the Watson Foundation seeks,” said Amy Feifer, interim dean of career and professional advising and associate dean of the College, who has acted as the College's liaison to the fellowship since 2016. “Maurice's many contributions to the Haverford community over his four years will leave a lasting benefit to the ethos of the school. His initiative and imagination will be the foundation for an exciting year of international exploration and for his personal journey.”
This year's Watson cohort hails from six countries and 18 states. They were chosen from a record number of applications. The 41 fellows were nominated by 40 partner institutions from across the United States.
Since 1968 the Watson Fellowship has provided a rare window after college and pre-career for students to engage their deepest interests on a global scale. Fellows conceive original projects, execute them outside of the United States for one year, and embrace the ensuing journey. The program produces a year of personal insight, perspective, and confidence that shapes the arc of fellows' lives.