Arturo Jaras Watts '14 wins Udall Scholarship
When Arturo Jaras Watts ’14 was a freshman, he came upon members of LEAF (Leaders for Environmental Action at Fairfield) using chalk to write environmental facts on the sidewalk to raise awareness on the topic. The statistics inspired and drew him into the world of environmentalism. Almost three years later, he’s become a passionate advocate for investing in a brighter environmental future. Recently he was awarded a prestigious Udall Scholarship, a national government funded scholarship worth $5,000 given to students dedicated to careers in the environment.
This past fall semester, the economics major was encouraged by his faculty advisor Dr. Dina Franceschi, associate professor of economics, to apply for the scholarship. Jaras Watts said that until he came to Fairfield, he didn’t know much about the subject, “Fairfield was really where I discovered this passion,” he explained.
Jaras Watts knew that Fairfield was the school for him after he went on a campus tour. “I applied to seven or eight schools and visited all of them and I just really got the sense that this was the place for me,” he said. “And I was right.”
Once introduced to environmental activism, Jaras Watts quickly inserted himself into the movement and eventually led the way to form a new student group, The Proactive Investment Club, dedicated to promoting investments that create positive social change in addition to generating a financial return. The economist-in-training said, “My passion is in the crossroads between investment and environmentalism. The [Proactive Investment Club] is where the bulk of my environmental achievement has occurred.”
In just two years, the group was able to work with Fairfield University administration to allocate $15,000 in the budget for on-campus sustainability projects ($15,000 in the form of student-written grants).
Jaras Watts hopes that the Proactive Investment Club can continue this work to establish a permanent revolving green fund at Fairfield. “We hope to make this something that exists in the DNA of the University to continue to make an impact long after I graduate.” Jaras Watts also hopes to expand PIC nationally and start establishing chapters at different schools around the country. “Investing in positive change is an idea that students are getting excited about all around the country--there’s a lot of potential in this strategy to make a difference”
In class, Jaras Watts’ interest in the environment led him towards his interest in economics, which has been augmented by courses in other disciplines. For example, a social psychology course taught by Dr. Michael Andreychik, assistant professor of psychology has had the most impact on Jaras Watts so far. “Social psychology totally changed how I see the world and how I approach activism in efforts to make a difference” he explained. According to Jaras Watts, Fairfield’s core curriculum has given him exposure to various other subjects. “The core has helped me approach economics in what I consider to be a holistic way. As a result of that, I don’t just look at the subject in a one-dimensional sense.”
This summer, Jaras Watts will remain on campus and serve as a research assistant to Dr. Mark LeClair, professor of economics. Together they will research social business and philanthropy. His role will consist of reviewing the existing research and co-writing a journal article on their findings. In addition, he will travel to Arizona in August to participate in Udall Scholarship orientation.
Following graduation, Jaras Watts plans to pursue a Ph.D. in economics with a focus on socially responsible investment. “I think if there’s one big lesson that’s come out of [my time at Fairfield] it’s that compassion is not enough, it’s absolutely important to get out there and actively try to create change. Because if we don’t, who will?”