Maddi Schink '23 Named Watson Fellow and Fulbright Finalist

Project: to Explore how Climate Change Affects Mental Health

Colorado College senior Maddi Schink has won the trifecta of student awards. Not only has she been selected to be part of the 55th class of Thomas J. Watson Fellows, but she also has won a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Award to Colombia. Last year, Schink won the Truman Scholarship.

The Watson Fellowship provides fellows with the opportunity to test their aspirations and abilities through a personal project experienced on an international scale. They are nominated by 41 college and university partners across the United States.

Schink’s project will focus on how climate change and mental health interact with each other, specifically investigating how climatic events impact the psychological and emotional well-being of affected communities. She will travel to Argentina, Kenya, Thailand, and Estonia to conduct her research.

“Each country was selected for a different reason, whether it was the types of climate change impacts they have faced or geographic and cultural elements,” says Schink. “I wanted to seek out diverse perspectives during my Watson year and these are all places I have never been before.”

Fellows receive $40,000 for twelve months of travel and college loan assistance as needed. Following the year, they join a community of peers who provide a lifetime of support and inspiration.

Part of her reason for choosing climate change and mental health for her project is rooted in her family’s direct experience with the deadly Marshall Fire in Boulder County in December 2021.

“My family was impacted by the fire, which opened my eyes to the impacts of climatic events on mental health,” she shares. “I have watched my community struggle through the aftermath of the fire and yet I have also seen so much resilience. Exploring the intersection of these two issues is deeply personal and I see it as part of a broader journey to ‘humanize’ the story of climate change.”

Schink will graduate in May with an education major and environmental studies minor at CC. She says she has a longstanding passion for addressing climate change and related environmental injustices, as well as equitable access to environmental education and can see herself working in those areas. She’s excited for what the Watson year holds in store.

“It still feels surreal when I think about the year ahead of me!”

Schink has leveraged the unique opportunities available at CC, from interning at the Collaborative for Community Engagement to working closely with Campus Activities and local organizations. “I learned so much about how I want to show up in a community and work with others. I know that these lessons inspired my Watson proposal and I will carry them with me throughout my year.”

She thanks the advisers who supported her at CC, specifically Writing Center Specialist Roy Jo Sartin, Student Success Specialist Gretchen Wardell, and Assistant Director of Grants, Research and Fellowships Lisa Schwartz. “I could not have done this without them and I am extremely grateful that they were part of my CC journey.”

Schink was also a Gilman Award-winner and a Henri “Skip” Meis 1963 Emerging Student Leader Award winner. 

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