May 24, 2018
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College of the Atlantic Student Wins Thomas J. Watson Fellowship

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Anouk deFontaine ’14 awarded one-year grant for independent study and travel outside the US

BAR HARBOR, ME – College of the Atlantic (COA) student Anouk deFontaine ’14 is one of only 44 students nationwide to be awarded the coveted 2014-2015 Watson Fellowship, and will receive funding for a yearlong independent pursuit on a project pertaining to using dance as medicine.

The Thomas J. Watson Foundation gives Fellows a $28,000 stipend for a year of travel outside the United States. For the past 45 years, the foundation has selected extraordinary college seniors, enabling each fellow to pursue a dream involving travel around the world.

deFontaine, who is from Belgium, will head to Brazil, South Africa, Swaziland, India, and Japan for her project, “Dance as Medicine: Looking at Dance as a Tool for Community Healing.” deFontaine has been dancing since she was three, but only recently, when volunteering in northern Canada, did she experience the healing power of dance through a Dene ceremony. She finally saw a way to connect her two passions: healing and dance, performing and developing her movement vocabulary.

“Dance can summon our healing capacities; it is a powerful tool for personal and communal healing,” said deFontaine. “I will explore ways in which groups that have experienced incredible historical trauma – the slave trade, apartheid, exile and diaspora, atomic bombings – have used dance to process and heal themselves. By observing, dancing, and talking with members of dance communities, I will look at trauma as a personal and shared experience, the interplay of history and culture in facing trauma, and how by understanding the specific movements, rhythms, and vocabularies that create kinesthetic healing, I can begin to shape a dance form that can be a tool for healing.”

The fellowships are considered investments in the people, even more than their dream projects. COA’s fellows have gone on to lead major non-profits, become international negotiators—and 1992 fellow Darron Collins is currently COA’s president. COA has sent 33 seniors onto a Watson year since being chosen to nominate potential fellows in 1984.

“I think Anouk has been preparing for the sort of transformative experience the Watson Fellowship provides for many years now,” said COA Faculty Member in Performing Arts, Jodi Baker. “She has instinctively relied on movement and art as a form of self-expression and transformation her whole life. Anouk believes dance is a universal translator. Seeing this in application within the contexts of other communities and cultures will be tremendously helpful. She will have the opportunity to study and practice using dance in this capacity and she will explore how others do the same. She can begin to put her ideas into action. And that of course, will be an invaluable experience.”

In addition to dancing, deFontaine has also become a massage therapist, an advocate for students with learning disabilities, and a mandated reporter for sexual assault. She is studying acupuncture and hopes to continue learning about the body and incorporating this knowledge into her dancing.

About the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program
Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program was established in 1968 by the children of Thomas J. Watson, Sr., founder of International Business Machines Corp., and his wife, Jeannette K. Watson, to honor their parents’ long-standing interest in education and world affairs. The Watson Foundation regards its investment in people as an effective long-term contribution to the global community.

About College of the Atlantic
College of the Atlantic was founded in 1969 on the premise that education should go beyond understanding the world as it is, to enabling students to actively shape its future. A leader in experiential education and environmental stewardship, COA has pioneered a distinctive interdisciplinary approach to learning—human ecology—that develops the kinds of creative thinkers and doers needed by all sectors of society in addressing the compelling and growing needs of our world. For more information, visit