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Two Students Awarded Prestigious Watson Fellowships

Alec Rotunda '16 (right) and Xzavier Killings '16
Xzavier Killings ’16 (left) and Alec Rotunda ’16 to research the health benefits and character building power of athletics.

Xzavier Killings '16 and Alec Rotunda '16,  both Davidson scholar athletes, were selected as winners of the prestigious Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. This year, 152 finalists were selected from 40 partner institutions for the national competition, and 40 fellows were named.

This 48th class of Watson Fellows comes from 21 states and eight countries and will travel to 67 countries exploring topics ranging from climate change to incarceration; from technology empowerment to forced migration; from car culture to ethnoentomology.

Both fellows will use their interest in athletics to study cultures and practices around the world.

Xzavier Killings '16: Empowering Patients Through Service, Education and Athletics

Xzavier Killings '16 doesn't settle for anything less than his best effort, and he constantly strives to contribute more to the Davidson community. The senior biology major, track and field captain and 2015 homecoming king from Roebuck, S.C., recently broke the school record in the long jump—just one of the many ways he will leave a legacy on campus long after commencement.

In addition to his passion for athletics, community service is a cornerstone of Killings' life. As a Bonner Scholar, he performs 280 hours of community service per year, averaging 10 hours per week on top of already demanding academic and athletic commitments.

Though Killings' track and field schedule did not permit him to study abroad during the academic year, he gained international experience through a Dean Rusk travel grant, which allowed him to travel to Germany to shadow doctors in a hospital and volunteer at a local preschool.

"That opportunity to go abroad broadened my horizons and left me wanting to go back to Germany and travel more," said Killings, a German minor who, in addition to the Bonner Scholarship, also receives the Allen V. Beck Jr. Scholarship and the Bethea Scholarship.

At the hospital where Killings volunteered, one unique program left a lasting impression: a parkour program to combat diabetes.

"It was so innovative," explained Killings, referring to the urban sport of running and jumping over obstacles to promote well-being. "It made me realize we need more programs like that, turning something challenging into something inspiring."

Killings was awarded a Watson Fellowship to work on a project inspired by his time in Germany. Titled "Ultimate Healing: Empowering Patients Through Service, Education and Athletics," the fellowship will allow him to spend a year traveling to Jamaica, Zambia, India and Belize examining different approaches to healing, as well as how communities are empowering patients to sustain their healthcare outside of hospital walls.

With his long-term goal of becoming a medical practitioner, Killings hopes to learn what makes these international health programs successful so he can bring those ideas back to the United States.

"I didn't expect to be supported as much as I am by professors, staff and students," said Killings. "My community of athletics, academics and my social family all intertwine and support each other, working toward a common goal. It's only right that I pay that support forward."

Alec Rotunda '16: Personal Growth and Character Development in International Youth Soccer

Alec Rotunda '16, of Greensboro, North Carolina, juggles the demands of a philosophy major, Division I athletics and campus leadership.

The men's soccer team stand out has proven to be a leader among his teammates. Even when sidelined with a potential career-ending injury, Rotunda supported his teammates by assisting with practices and games. He returned to the field this year as the team's leading scorer, netting five goals for the season and leading the team through major contests against N.C. State and Duke. Additionally, he spent a summer interning with Street Soccer USA, a non-profit organization founded by Lawrence Cann '00 that uses sport as a means of sparking social change and empowering those who are disadvantaged.

Rotunda's love of soccer and belief in the ways in which sport can cultivate personal characteristics led him to apply for a Watson Fellowship with a project titled, "Uncovering the World's Game: A Study of Personal Growth and Character Development in International Youth Soccer."

Rotunda hopes to learn from his Watson year about different perspectives on and benefits of soccer in society, with the goal of becoming a more conscious global citizen. Rotunda will work with teams and grassroots organizations in Germany, India, Ghana and South Africa to explore how soccer inspires and prepares youths for life.

"While not every kid will grow up to play professionally, one of the biggest values of soccer is the intangible lessons learned on the field," explained Rotunda. "In my project, I plan to explore how soccer organizations recognize the responsibility they have in developing their players as human beings."

At Davidson, Rotunda now serves as the chair of the Honor Council. In this capacity, and through his previous role as the inaugural speaker series committee chair, he works to promote positive conversations around the Honor Code in addition to upholding its traditional role as a judicial body.

"The Honor Code brought me to Davidson because of the culture it creates on campus," Rotunda said. "We engage with the Honor Code in every facet of our Davidson lives."

Rotunda receives the Susan and Peter Andrews Men's Soccer Scholarship, the Charlie Slagle Soccer Scholarship and the Britt Armfield Preyer Scholarship.