Postdoctoral fellows reflect on their growth and accomplishments during their Watson residencies

With their terms ending, five Watson postdoctoral fellows and one postdoctoral research associate look to continue their academic careers armed with new skills acquired in the Watson Institute's unique and robust intellectual environment.

On June 30, five postdoctoral fellows and one postdoctoral research associate completed their Watson residencies. As they prepared for new career opportunities, they praised the Watson program for helping to shape their research and the unique opportunities it provides for young scholars in the social sciences. During the fellowship, Watson supports the fellows' research while enhancing their interdisciplinary literacy and ability to contribute to meaningful and enduring collaborative exchange. 

Gabreélla Friday

Gabreélla Friday, who had a dual appointment with Brown's Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, has accepted a tenure-track position as an assistant professor at St. John's University in Queens, NY. Friday praised the Postdoctoral Fellows Program as integral to her academic growth but reserved her highest praise for the postdoctoral cohort itself. 

"I've really appreciated the cohort of postdocs at Watson," she said. "I've found an amazing amount of solidarity with other similarly situated scholars. Having people to read your papers over and over again, having a group to write with, research with, or even just go out to get drinks and fellowship with — that has been hands down the best thing for me," said Friday.

Friday said that Watson's work-in-progress seminars have been "invaluable" in developing her work. "I did one each year so I could get as much feedback as possible on my work," she said. "In fact, the paper I did last semester was just accepted for publication, and that's really exciting."

I've really appreciated the cohort of postdocs at Watson…Having people to read your papers over and over again, having a group to write with, research with, or even just go out to get drinks and fellowship with — that has been hands down the best thing for me.

Gabreélla Friday Former Watson Postdoctoral Fellow
Gabreélla Friday

Friday said her fellowship was instrumental in preparing her for the job market. "I love my Ph.D. granting institution. They taught me how to think. They taught me theory," she said. However, she noted there was a gap when it came to preparing her for a career in academia. "Watson and CSREA taught me how to prepare a paper for publication, present myself on the job market, and the art of obtaining a book contract," she said. 

During her time at Watson, Friday worked on transforming her dissertation into a book and anticipates shopping it to academic presses in the fall. She also presented her work at the Punishment Beyond Mass Incarceration Symposium organized by John Eason in April.

Blair Sackett

Blair Sackett published her first book, "We Thought It Would Be Heaven: Refugees in an Unequal America" (University of California Press), co-authored with Annette Lareau, during her tenure as a Watson postdoctoral fellow. In the book, she and Lareau reveal how "the very social service organizations meant to help resettled refugees can derail their progress in building a new life in the United States." 

Sackett is working on her second book, which will examine the reverberations of national policy and humanitarian practice on refugee families' economic strategies and social networks in a refugee camp in Kenya. 

Aalyia Sadruddin

Concurrent with her appointment as a postdoctoral fellow at Watson, Aalyia Sadruddin held a tenure-track position as an assistant professor of cultural medical anthropology at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In the fall, she will begin a new tenure-track appointment as an assistant professor of sociocultural anthropology at Wellesley College.

Sadruddin called her postdoctoral experience at Watson a "reflection of the very best aspects of academic life." "To be a part of a community where junior and senior academics are actively encouraged to think about local and international issues together is a sound reminder that there are spaces in academia where intergenerational learning is happening," she said. "The postdoc granted me the space to get my writerly turbines going again, take a break from the temporalities of the tenure track job, and sediment myself in thought, which, I realize, is a rare privilege in today's world."

Trained as a medical anthropologist, Sadruddin arrived at Watson in 2020 at the height of the pandemic. During the fall 2023 semester, she taught "Animals and War," a course for undergraduate students majoring in International and Public Affairs. She also spent her year at Brown working on her book, "After-After-Lives," an ethnographic account of aging, care and death after the genocide in Rwanda.

Daniel Driscoll

Daniel Driscoll, a postdoctoral research associate at Watson's Rhodes Center for International Economics and Finance, has accepted a tenure-track position as an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Virginia. He said his time as a postdoctoral researcher at Watson made a "huge difference" in positioning himself for a tenure track position at a top university.

Driscoll said one of the things that made his time at Watson so fruitful was being a part of the institute's community. "The sense of community with my fellow postdocs was incredible," he said. Driscoll said he valued participating in work-in-progress seminars with his peers and found having his research reviewed by a diverse group of scholars helpful. His first book, "Why Carbon Taxes Failed," currently under review by Oxford University Press, took shape during those workshops. 

With Mark Blyth's encouragement, Driscoll also published stories for the non-academic press, including "Four Problems for the Degrowth Movement" in Jacobin Magazine. "Mark was a big influence on me, in part, because he's such a public scholar," said Driscoll. "He taught me how to write for more popular audiences and helped frame my book in that direction as well," he said. "I really can't say enough good things about Mark. He was incredibly generous as a mentor and taught me so much about being a political economist and an academic." "I'm not sure I'll know the full impacts of my time here for years," he added.

Other postdoctoral fellows completing the program include Foroogh Farhang, who has accepted a tenure-track position in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Vermont, and Valerie Michelman, who has accepted a tenure-track assistant professor of economics position at the University of Delaware.

Current postdoctoral fellows

Six current postdoctoral fellows — Laura Acosta, Volha Biziukova, Sonia Planson, Catherine Sirois, Latoya M. Teague and Yan Xu — will remain at Watson for the 2024-2025 academic year. The institute will welcome a new cohort at the start of the fall semester.