The University of Georgia
Watts, Alec

UGA's Amazing Students

Alec Watts

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May 19, 2007

Senior Alec Watts is serious about making the world a better place. He is active with the UGA chapter of Amnesty International serving as a general officer and as a Georgia Amnesty International Legislative Coordinator, where his role has been to teach Amnesty International members across the state how to engage in dialogue with their legislators. He is co-president of Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. As a former Honors Civic Leader, he has also held community forums for the Southern Growth Policies Board, which deals with local issues of poverty and development in the South in an effort to encourage fruitful dialogue between the Athens and UGA communities. He is the undergraduate lab manager in the Laboratory for the Study of Social Interaction, where he studies physiological measures of emotion in social interaction. He has presented research findings at the Center for Undergraduate Opportunities (CURO) Symposium and the UGA Social Structure and Emotion Conference. He plans to pursue graduate work in sociology after he completes a double major at UGA this semester.

Expected graduation:

Spring 2007

Degree objective:

A.B. in political science, A.B. in sociology

University highlights, achievements and awards:

I have served as a general officer for the UGA chapter of Amnesty International and as the co-president of the Athens chapter of Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. In these capacities, I have organized a number of events centered on the ideals of social justice and international human rights. For the past two years, I have served as the Georgia Amnesty International Legislative Coordinator, a role through which I regularly lobby Georgia legislators and conduct lobbying training for Amnesty groups across the state. I also attempt to connect Amnesty activists with their elected officials so they may work more effectively together to address international human rights issues. In the summer of 2005, I had the privilege of studying and living with a family in Erlangen, Germany with the help of the Kicklighter Study Abroad Travel Grant. Earlier last year, I received the Rotary “Circle of Excellence Award” for service to the local and global community, and I also co-represented the School of Public and International Affairs as the recipient of the Athens Rotary “Top 12 Award.” I am a six-semester Presidential Scholar, a member of the Blue Key National Honor Society, and the secretary and treasurer of Pi Sigma Alpha, the Political Science Honor Society. This semester marks my third semester researching through CURO, and I am currently developing a thesis on the effects of sexual orientation on expectations in task-oriented interaction.

Hometown:

Stone Mountain, Ga.

High School:

Chamblee High School

Current Employment:

This past summer, I worked for the Los Angeles Teach for America Institute as the Coordinator for Office Operations. There, I met an amazing group of people and had the opportunity to work with 400 outstanding recent college graduates who committed the next two years of their lives to teaching at disadvantaged schools. I try use the money I save from my summer jobs so I don’t have to work during the school year, but I do pick up a few dollars each semester working as a class note-taker.

Family Ties to UGA:

My older brother graduated from UGA in 2004 with a B.B.A. and now works for the Forestry Service during the warm months and in snowboard shops during ski season. My twin brother is an art student at UGA who recently returned to campus after studying abroad in Heidelberg, Germany this past school year.

I chose to attend UGA because...

…of the myriad academic, social, and extracurricular opportunities UGA offers. I was undecided about which degree to pursue when I visited UGA, but I knew I would be able to obtain a solid education with most any program I chose to pursue. Since entering UGA, I have changed my major three times and, in my last year here, I feel confident I am headed in the right direction with a solid background in sociology and political science. Additionally, the Athens music scene regularly quenches my social appetite, while on-campus events keep me busy with extracurricular activities nearly every evening.

My favorite things to do on campus are...

…visit as many events and student organization meetings as possible! There are incredible learning opportunities occurring literally every evening all over campus and I try to attend as many as I can. My schedule is regularly crammed with evening events such as documentary screenings, “Live in the Lobby” listening sessions at the WUOG radio station, and lectures by renowned academics, politicians, and other public figures. UGA and the Athens community are fortunate to have so many organizations contributing social justice work on both a micro and macro level. I try to be involved with as many of these organizations as possible by attending meetings regularly and by trying to encourage organizations with shared interests to work together on common issues.

When I have free time, I like...

...to listen to NPR while cooking and trying out new recipes. On the weekends, if I am not catching up on schoolwork, I am usually trying to go to a concert or a dance party downtown.

The craziest thing I've done is...

…whitewater kayaked down the Nantahala River. My twin brother and I both signed up for a weeklong whitewater kayaking class at summer camp a couple years before college and both ended up being the smallest and youngest ones in the class! Most of the rivers we paddled down consisted mostly of only Class I and II rapids, but on the last day we attempted to conquer the Nantahala, a deceptively calm river marked by a tumultuous Class III drop at the end. Though we had bailed out quite a few times farther up the river, at this juncture we risked getting caught in a whirlpool if we didn’t paddle through fast enough! After struggling to hear the guide over the rapids and exchanging many glances of nervousness, my brother and I both made it through skillfully and safely.

My favorite place to study is...

…the balcony of my apartment. It is on the fringe of campus, and it is the best place in Athens to watch people and to view the sunset when I need a study break.

My favorite professor is...

...Dawn Robinson in sociology and Amy Ross in geography. Robinson conducts research in social psychology and makes every effort to get undergraduate students involved in the research process. She has guided my personal interest and research in sociology and has introduced me to other prominent scholars in the field. She has also supported and prepared me to pursue a post-graduate program in sociology. Ross is a dynamic teacher whose class “Geography of Human Rights” should be mandatory for every global citizen. She teaches with a passion that fosters active awareness within her students about the history and status quo of international human rights.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with...

...Martin Luther King Jr. I imagine I would learn from him more relevant and practical information about activism, community organizing, resistance to injustice, human rights, and inspiring change than I could from anyone else. King mobilized people not just to do what he thought was right, but also to actually wake up, organize each other, and build a grass-roots movement to solve the injustices of the time. Though there were certainly many other pivotal, and often forgotten, civil rights leaders such as John Lewis, Bayard Rustin, and Rev. Shuttlesworth, King’s early death deprived us of benefiting from any insights he might have had into contemporary issues.  Consequently, issue advocates today frequently invoke his name to rally support for their own causes.  To spend an afternoon with King and discuss his thoughts on his iconic status, the issues of today, and how he would approach today’s issues would not only benefit me, but could provide valuable insight that I could hopefully relay to others to help address some of the current conflicts in our society.

If I knew I could not fail, I would...

…instill in everyone on Earth (including myself) a passion to change things for the better. As a human race, we are currently faced with innumerable local, national, and global crises that must be approached with more passion than any one person or group of people could possess. Collectively, we all possess the resources and power, but too often we lack the resolve, passion, and urgency necessary to effectively cooperate and resolve the problems our society faces. Awareness of our potential and the passion to act would undoubtedly go a long way in squashing the ills of our society.

After graduation, I plan to...

...enroll in a Ph.D. program in sociology. I will most likely study at Stanford University, where I could pursue my sociological interests working with some of the world’s best sociologists, such as social psychologists Cecilia Ridgeway and Karen Cook or social movement scholars Doug McAdam and Susan Olzak.  Though I am still exploring fields within sociology, I am most interested in focusing on social psychology, social movements, race and/or sexuality.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be...

…my presentation at the 2006 State of the Art Conference on Social Structure and Emotion. There, a fellow research assistant and I nervously presented the preliminary results of our research to nationally recognized scholars in the field of social psychology. We then had the opportunity to engage in conversations with them and to receive valuable feedback about our research.