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From McNair Scholar to elite minority fellow

December graduate receives one of 14 nationwide political science fellowships

Contact: Dan Digmann


​​It didn't take Donovan A. Watts long to reap the rewards of his undergraduate research and degree in political science from Central Michigan University.

After graduating in December, the Detroit native was named among 14 nationwide recipients of the 2017-18 American Political Science Association Minority Fellowship.

Watts' undergraduate research focused on the knowledge and attitudes of CMU's African-American students based on the recent conflicts between law enforcement officers and African-Americans. He also became involved with Pi Sigma Alpha — the national political science honor society — and served as the CMU chapter's president his senior year.

As a first-generation college student, Watts participated in the McNair Scholars Program — a federally funded program that prepares undergraduates for future doctoral studies. He quickly seized opportunities to pursue his research interests in American politics with a concentration on race and ethnic politics and political participation.

"To be one of 14 scholars is a huge accomplishment," Watts said, noting that other recipients graduated from institutions such as the University of Alabama, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Cornell University. "I'm seeing my hard work at CMU is paying off."

Watts hopes to use his ASPA fellowship and doctoral degree to influence policy decisions that will have an impact within the African-American community. This minority fellowship program — designed for students who are applying to or are in the early stages of political science doctoral programs — aims to increase the number of underrepresented scholars within the political science discipline.

He currently is interviewing for admission into graduate and doctoral programs and plans to explore voter turnout of African-American millennials and emerging social movements such as the Black Lives Matter movement.

"When I transferred to CMU, I knew I wanted to make some kind of impact," said Watts, who transferred to CMU from Schoolcraft College. "I hope to do the same wherever I end up pursuing my doctoral degree."

In addition to crediting the McNair Program for propelling his college career, Watts said he owes so much to CMU political science professor Joyce Baugh, who served as his McNair faculty mentor and as the Pi Sigma Alpha advisor.

"Everything I've done at CMU wouldn't have happened without Dr. B," Watts said. "Whether it was helping me with my research or finding scholarships, she helped me grow so much."

Seeing Watts succeed is equally as gratifying for Baugh, who saw firsthand the dedication he had to put in the extra work needed to succeed.

"People often forget about the struggles of first-generation college students and the added challenges they face," Baugh said. "Donovan is a bright young man who I've enjoyed working with. I wish I had more students like him."


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